The USDA finalizes its ruling on hemp regulation after the 2018 Farm Bill (view pdf) directed USDA to establish a national regulatory framework for hemp production in the United States. The USDA had published interim hemp rules during October of 2019, which was followed by a public comment period of 60 days where over 5,900 responses were received. This was ahead of setting the final regulations released in January 2021. The USDA published the final rule on January 19, 2021, which provides regulations for the production of hemp in the United States. The ruling is effective March 22, 2021.
“The final rule raises the negligence threshold from .5 percent to 1 percent THC in hemp plants”
Some of the topics covered in the ruling included provisions covering licensing requirements, how they expect recordkeeping on hemp fields to be done, proper disposal of non-compliant and “hot” plants, and procedures for handling violations, among others. You can view the full ruling here.
A few key takeaways from the USDA ruling include:
- THC TESTING: Hemp must be tested for total THC content, rather than delta-9 THC alone
- SAMPLING FOR TESTING: stakeholders requested that samples may be taken from a greater part of the plant or the entire plant. They also requested sampling from a smaller number of plants.
- NEGLIGENT VIOLATION: producers must dispose of plants that exceed the acceptable hemp THC level. However, if the plant tests at or below the negligent threshold stated in the rule, the producer will not have committed a negligent violation. The final rule raises the negligence threshold from .5 percent to 1 percent and limits the maximum number of negligent violations that a producer can receive in a growing season (calendar year) to one.
- DISPOSAL AND REMEDIATION OF NON-COMPLIANT HEMP PLANTS: the final rule allows for alternative disposal methods for non-compliant plants that do not require using a DEA reverse distributor or law enforcement and expands the disposal and remediation measures available to producers. AMS will provide acceptable remediation techniques in a separate guidance document.
- DEA REGULATED LABORATORIES: there is an insufficient number of DEA-registered laboratories to test all the anticipated hemp that will be produced in 2020 and possibly 2021. DEA has agreed to extend the enforcement flexibility allowing non-DEA registered labs to test hemp until January 1, 2022, and is processing lab registration applications quickly to get more labs testing hemp DEA-registered.
- TIMING OF PLANT SAMPLING FOR TESTING: the IFR stated a 15-day window to collect samples before harvest. The FR extends this requirement to 30 days before harvest.
USDA Public Affairs: PA@usda.gov / (202) 720-8998 / Release No. 010-21