USDA reopens comment period on hemp regulations as lawmakers, growers worry rules could stunt budding industry


September 11, 2020

The new comment period is open until Oct. 8

By Tyler Olson | September 9, 2020

The future of regulations on the hemp industry is up in the air as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reconsiders a slate of proposed rules ahead of the 2021 growing season.

These include directives on the testing and disposal of hemp that growers and even some U.S. senators have said could stunt the growth of the industry that was created by the 2018 Farm Bill.

On Sept. 4 the USDA announced that it would reopen the comment period for the interim final rule (IFR) on domestic hemp production, seeking input from the public on a variety of provisions. At the center of the issue are two regulations — one that requires labs testing farmers’ hemp to be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and one that would require disposal of hemp plants with non-compliant levels of THC (the active chemical in marijuana that is found in much lower levels in hemp) to happen with law enforcement involved.

Both of those rules had their implementation delayed until October 2021 earlier this year, but still have been the subject of criticism, including from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who wants the USDA to delay the implementation further into 2022.

Mickey Wilbanks, the California Department of Food and Agriculture account manager with InfiniteCal, one of the largest cannabis testing labs in the state — which tests both hemp and marijuana — echoed similar concerns about the involvement of law enforcement in both the testing of hemp and the destruction of plants that do test hot.

“I know a lot of registered growers in California and they’re all trying to follow these regulations to a tee,” she said. “The fact that regulators now want to involve the DEA so much, it’s almost like they’re treating these registrants as criminals when hemp has been federally legalized and it’s just not necessary.”


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