2018 marked a watershed year for hemp farmers and CBD producers with the passage of the Farm Bill and the establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program through the United States Food and Drug Administration. While this legislation opened up restrictions on hemp production across the U.S., there was, of course, plenty of red tape that came along with it. The legislation notes that, “the 2018 Farm Bill requires USDA to promulgate regulations and guidelines to establish and administer a program for the production of hemp in the United States.”
These regulations included licensing requirements, providing information on the land where hemp is grown, compliance provisions, handling violations, and the all-important THC concentration testing. Since they were first passed in 2018, these regulations have come under scrutiny from the hemp growing community as they have been implemented. In particular, farmers have had issues with the THC testing provisions of the law.
In order to comply with the original 2018 regulations, farmers had to provide testing for their crops to ensure that it was below a 0.3% THC limit. Any hemp tested at greater than that percentage would fall under the Controlled Substances Act, and would be considered a Schedule 1 substance that would have to be properly disposed of. This requirement was a holdover from the years when hemp was an illegal Schedule 1 drug.
Under the original draft of the legislation, it was mandated that all of the testing would have to be done at laboratories operated by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The hope here was to ensure uniform testing standards that would prevent hemp with higher THC limits from making it onto the market. Issues quickly started to come up as farmers attempted to comply, as there are only 47 DEA-registered labs throughout the country. Many farmers were left to deal with delays in testing. As a response to these concerns, USDA officials announced in February that they would delay the requirement that hemp crops be tested at DEA-registered facilities. Lifting this restriction comes as federal officials look for ways to streamline the process of hemp production.
The regulation of hemp is still in its infancy after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, as the industry tries to get a sense of how much product is demanded by the market and how it will be scrutinized by federal oversight. The good news is that by lifting the DEA-regulated testing standards, third-party laboratories like Apricot Analytics can now offer their services to hemp farmers around the country.