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The US Department of Agriculture’s Problems in Crafting Hemp Testing Regulations

 

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not having an easy time in developing standards for the testing of hemp.

 

The 2018 Farm Bill fully legalized the growing of hemp, but it created an issue for cultivators, manufacturers of hemp products or products that include CBD, retailers, consumers, states, and law enforcement. 

 

The Farm Bill defined hemp as the cannabis plant with less than .3% THC. The problem for the USDA is in developing testing standards to determine if the crop or derivatives of the plant, including hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, or CBD are from legal hemp or illegal marijuana.  

 

The need to have uniform national hemp testing standards is critical if hemp is to become a standardized commodity with a national market.

 

Without uniform testing standards, law enforcement throughout the United States is stymied regarding whether crops or derivatives of the plant are illegal marijuana or legal hemp. Adding to the confusion is the hodgepodge of testing standards.

 

What is generally acknowledged as needed are uniform standards based on “post decarboxylation” or comparable protocols. Decarboxylation is a process of heating cannabis to activate the compounds within the plant. As an example, before decarboxylation, THC is present as THCA, which is a non-intoxicating acidic version of THC.

 

Most US hemp farmers are growing cultivars that are rich in other cannabinoids in addition to CBD. Many growers are concerned that if post decarboxylation testing becomes the standard, that many, if not most, of the plants grown in the US, would be defined as marijuana and not legal hemp.

 

William Richmond, the USDA’s head of its Speciality Crops Program of its Agricultural Marketing Service indicated that while the agency had hoped to have regulations in place by this fall, that it now intends to have them in place before the 2020 growing season. Richmond also indicated that the USDA’s “goal is to provide a consistent, easy-to-follow regulatory framework around hemp production.”

 

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