In their Final Rule for the hemp industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised THC levels that trigger eradication to 1% rather than the previous 0.5%. Industrial hemp standards under U.S. law remain 0.3% but the Agricultural Marketing Service – a division of the USDA – said the “statute [does] not define negligent violation.”
The rules were authored during the Trump Administration and published on January 19.
“AMS is increasing the negligent violation to a 1.0 percent threshold. AMS acknowledges that a lower total THC threshold will result in a higher number of negligent violations. AMS also understands that factors beyond the control of farmers may cause an increase in total THC-levels, such as seed genetic, weather and climate, and may contribute to crops exceeding the negligent violation threshold. AMS believes that the data provided in the comments clearly showed that increasing the negligent violation threshold to 1.0 percent would diminish the risk that producers would incur negligent violations without adding a greater risk of non-compliant material reaching channels of commerce.” – AMS, Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program, Jan. 19, 2021
The new federal rules also give cultivators 30 days instead of 15 to get samples of their crops tested in an effort to prevent testing backlogs. The regulations also increase the options by which a grower can dispose of non-compliant plants without using a Drug Enforcement Administration-registered service or under the supervision of law enforcement.
The order keeps many of the previous rules in place, including requiring laboratories that analyze and test hemp to register with the DEA, the requirement that state and tribal hemp plans are approved by the USDA, and prohibiting individuals with controlled substance-related felonies from the industry for 10 years.
States that do not want to develop their own hemp plans may use USDA guidelines but producers in those states are required to apply for and be issued a license from the agency.
The new rules are set to take effect on March 22; however, they will likely be frozen by the Biden Administration as is standard procedure during a presidential transition for new rules and revisions issued by the outgoing administration.