US Department of Agriculture rolls out hemp cultivation guidelines

As consumer interest in CBD products in the United States continues to surge, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) released interim draft rules for growing hemp this week.

The guidelines for hemp cultivation will be subject to a 60-day public comment period, after which the USDA will start reviewing proposed regulations from states and tribes.

“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

“We have had teams operating with all-hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent, and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers who want to participate in this program,” Perdue added.

Once formally published in the Federal Register later this week, the rules will take effect immediately.

Some leeway in THC levels for hemp farmers

The proposed regulation covers a wide range of policies relating to the cultivation of the plant, used in everything from food to cosmetics, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still developing a regulatory framework for cannabis-derived products.

Last week, the FDA said it “continues to explore potential pathways for various types of CBD products to be marketed lawfully.”

Under the USDA hemp growing framework, crop samples will be tested in DEA-registered labs to determine if THC levels exceed 0.3%.

However, this interim rule requires labs to report any “measurement of uncertainty” as part of the hemp test results, thus providing assurances to farmers that they will not face criminal charges if their hemp tests for THC levels above 0.3% due to other factors.

“USDA recognizes that hemp producers may take the necessary steps and precautions to produce hemp yet still produce plants that exceed the acceptable hemp THC level,” the rules say.

The appeal of CBD products among Americans shows no sign of abating. Cannabis researchers at BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research earlier this year estimated that the market for CBD sales in the US will surpass $20 billion by 2024.

Last year, Congress legalized industrial hemp via the 2018 Farm Bill, removing it from the federal list of Schedule I controlled substances.

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