The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the formal requirements for hemp production in the United States. The hemp final rule largely reflects the interim final rule that was published in October 2019, with some modifications. Changes to the interim rule incorporate feedback that was provided by stakeholders. The legalization of hemp production was provided through the 2018 Farm Bill and generated immediate interest.
“With the publication of this final rule, USDA brings to a close a full and transparent rule-making process that started with a hemp listening session in March 2019,” USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Greg Ibach said in a news release. “USDA staff have taken the information you have provided through three comment periods and from your experiences over a growing season to develop regulations that meet Congressional intent while providing a fair, consistent, science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers. USDA staff will continue to conduct education and outreach to help industry achieve compliance with the requirements.”
The 300-page final hemp rule details licensing and recordkeeping requirements, as well as procedures for testing and disposal. Some of the significant changes to the final rule include an expanded harvest window time of 30 days instead of 15 noted in the interim rule. The standard of negligence has also been increased. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration levels have been raised from 0.5 percent to one percent. Samples that test between 0.3 percent and one percent will need to be disposed of but will not be considered a negligent violation. The final rule also makes the disposal process simpler for producers.
The hemp final rule is set to take effect on March 22, 2021. Industry groups have been supportive of the rule but also have reservations about the rule’s finality moving forward. Some industry members have expressed concern that the new Biden Administration may reevaluate the rule.