More than 500 people have voiced their opinions on hemp rules less than two weeks after the USDA opened the public comment period.
Last month, the USDA released an interim final rule which contained regulatory guidelines for industrial hemp. Some of the regulations cover licensing, THC testing requirements, and the disposal procedure for crops exceeding the stipulated THC levels.
Hemp industry stakeholders and advocates do not have a fixed standpoint about the regulations because some of the rules are geared towards the positive development of the industry like providing farmers with the tools needed to enter the industry, while some of the provisions are very stringent and may end up harming the hemp industry, such as the testing of THC.
Some of the submitted comments address the following issues:
A hemp business owner from Washington, Christopher Gromek, said that the USDA should give farmers an opportunity to reduce the THC levels in the hemp plant (through sunlight or time) before destroying them.
Several other people voiced their opinions on THC testing and said that the state should use delta-9 THC only instead of all the variants of THC present in a plant.
Barbara Sisson, a hemp farmer and processor, said that the state should investigate further about THC testing and the limits.
Zachary Farber wrote that THC testing in hemp should not be done after decarboxylation as it makes it harder for farmers to produce legal hemp. Decarboxylation is the process through which cannabinoids within the flower are made psychoactive.
Other commenters suggested that the THC limit be increased to 1%, while others said that the testing timeframe be adjusted. One person said that they should be given a minimum of 30 days before harvesting tested hemp, instead of 15 days.
An anonymous commenter said that it is unfair to bar people convicted of drug felonies from participating in the legal hemp industry as they are the ones who are primarily affected by the war against drugs.
A hemp farmer based in Oregon, Jesse Richardson, said that the law stipulates that only registered Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) facilities are permitted to test the crops yet in Oregon, there is only one such facility, the Oregon State Crime Lab. This is a problem for the 750+ hemp growers in Oregon as it is challenging for the lab to service all the farmers in time.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable (hemp advocacy group) sent a letter to the USDA acknowledging them for developing the interim final rule whose provisions allow for interstate shipping of hemp products, as well as a rule ensuring flexibility in THC testing.
The U.S. Roundtable also sent a message to Greg Ibach, the USDA Under Secretary voicing their concerns about the rules penalizing farmers for cultivating hemp whose THC is more than 0.5%. They suggested that the crop be used for research purposes or as a “soil amendment.”
The comment period will be closed on December 31. The USDA will then work on finalizing the interim final rule for hemp. Although it is uncertain if the agency will consider the comments, the U.S. Roundtable said that the department is positively reviewing the feedback.
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