Initial Tests Find Lots of Arizona Hemp ‘Hot’

When the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, it had only two conditions; first, farmers had to grow the plants under approved state or tribal programs, and two, the hemp had to have less than 0.3% THC. THC, or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the cannabinoids produced by cannabis, and it’s what gives marijuana its psychoactive kick. The U.S. Department of Agriculture furthered this stipulation with its interim final rule, terming hemp that’s exceeded the THC limit as ‘hot’.

This has been a subject of intense contention among growers and other interested parties. Some argue that with the current genetics, it would be impossible to adhere to such a stringent limit. Others have said that farmers with hot hemp should be given the chance to do something else with it, say use it as feed, instead of destroying a crop they worked on for months.

Farmers in Arizona seem to be having a hard time with the THC limit after it emerged that around 41% of the hemp plants tested in Arizona exceed Federal THC limits. According to local media reports, growers in other states around the country, such as Nebraska and Hawaii, have also had issues managing the THC content, but Arizona’s first few months have been brutal.

The state began issuing hemp licenses in 2019 and harvesting started that year. It seemed like the state had run into a cash crop with real value, one that would lead to an economic boom. However, most farmers ran straight into a roadblock, and that’s Federal THC limits.

Sully Sullivan, executive director of the Hemp Industry Trade Association of Arizona, agrees that 41% is too high a number. “At 41%, that’s off the charts. I’m taken aback by that.”

John Caravetta, a Plant Services Division official, argues that such a high number wasn’t completely unexpected. “The failure rate is not unexpected based on anecdotal information regarding variable seed quality and genetic expression for THC content, between the varieties planted.”

Farmers, it seems, have no choice but to comply with a testing system that’s been termed too stringent on the nascent industry. Dustin Shill heads the Arizona Hemp Supply Co. with 40 acres in Yuma. Although his plants haven’t yet been tested by the department, he’s paid for independent weekly testing, with the last batch of ten tests costing him a cool $12,000.

He says that even though testing reduces profit, not spending the money is too risky. “If you don’t spend that money and go blind into it, you’re just rolling the dice. You got to know when to harvest.”

The THC and CBD go hand in hand. When it’s going up, THC is going up too, so it’s a fine line to determine when it’s ready.”

Analysts believe that the approach taken by Dustin Shill to test his plants on a weekly basis would be applauded by industry actors like MCTC Holdings Inc. (OTC: MCTC) since this method allows the farmer to harvest the crop before THC levels spike beyond legally permissible concentrations.

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