Industrial hemp

Industrial hemp. (Courtesy Colorado Department of Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture has proposed a nationwide set of standards for hemp cultivation.

Key components of the rule pertain to testing of crops. By federal definition, hemp contains 0.3% of less of THC, a psychoactive ingredient that occurs in marijuana at a concentration of around 10%. Hemp that exceeds the 0.3% threshold must be destroyed.

The rule appears to sympathize with crop growers who may lose money if their hemp is deemed to exceed the legal standard. Therefore, it mandates testing laboratories to calculate a measure of uncertainty in their reports; essentially, a margin of error.

The USDA would also take into account growers who act responsibly, but whose crops test between 0.3-0.5% for THC. Those growers will not be deemed negligent, but they will have to destroy their hemp.

Other elements include the establishment of fee-for-service testing labs, and the requirement that growers share their contact information with the federal government, as well as the locations of their crops.

In 2018, the Farm Bill charged USDA with creating regulations for the hemp industry, which includes signing off on plans from states or tribes, but also to develop a federal plan for areas that do not submit their own.

The Department declined to start a seed testing program, citing insufficient technology and the effects of grow environments. 

“The same seed used in one State to produce hemp plants with THC concentrations less than 0.3%, can produce hemp plants with THC concentrations of more than 0.3% when planted in a different State,” the proposal read.

The governor’s office and the Colorado Hemp Industries Association did not return requests for comment.

“Our teams are in the process of analyzing this detailed new rule and will leverage its directives in support of our state’s industrial hemp farmers,” said Kate Greenberg, Colorado's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“Based on the rich discussions and input we are gathering through our [hemp plan] meetings...we are preparing to submit our state plan in a timely  manner to USDA,” said Wondirad Gebru, the assistant director in the department's plant industry division.  

Last week, The Colorado Sun reported that in the past year, 80,000 acres of hemp were planted in Colorado, and 52 of the state’s 64 counties have registered hemp crops.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner responded in a statement that “this summer, I visited a hemp processing plant that is bringing dozens of jobs and millions of dollars of investments to rural Colorado. Legalized hemp has the potential to be a major boon to agricultural communities across Colorado, giving farmers another viable and profitable option for their fields. I look forward to the interim final rule being published in the Federal Register.”

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