USDA Hemp Rulings Improve But Still Restrict Farmers

America is simultaneously one of the most progressive and more backward countries, especially on drug laws. Today we can celebrate the new USDA rulings for hemp cultivation and production set to take effect in March, which will protect growers, but keep the limit for THC content in hemp at 0.3%.

USDA Rulings Offer Good News for Cultivators

The USDA published the final rule in January. States such as Kentucky are pushing for a 1% limit on THC, similar to Swiss standards. Unfortunately, there has been little progress on that front. Instead, growers can enjoy additional alternative options for disposing of hemp and a higher threshold for negligence.

Currently, the threshold for negligence is .5% THC concentration, and after the rule takes effect, the threshold will be 1% THC concentration. Anything beyond that will be considered a negligent violation. Whatever is below must be remediated or disposed of. The remediation industry is ripe for a boom, considering the rising demand for hemp and hemp-derivates. Odd that the cannabis industry will reach the point where it is purposefully lowering cannabinoid content, yet market restrictions and demands make for innovation.

Each grower would be allowed one negligent violation per year and three negligent violations in five years. More than either, and the cultivator will be banned from the legal market for a certain period. While these are stiff regulations, they are still more relaxed than previous expectations.

What happens with hemp between 0.3% and 1% THC concentration? Cultivators can mulch, compost, shred, or otherwise dispose of the biomass. While this will likely not result in as much profit as a harvest, it could cut into soil costs.

An additional cause for thought is the biomass that will be a byproduct of remediation or disposal. While this material could be burnt or otherwise wasted, it also could be converted into concrete, plastics, and other hemp derivatives. As the industry ends up with more and more biomass every year, and as options for disposal grow, savvy companies would be wise to use the unwanted biomass to profit.

Stabilizing a Wild Growth

While advocates won’t be seeing the rise to a 1% limit on THC content that they would have liked to see, the USDA’s ruling could be great news. As the hemp industry grows to be more mainstream, clear rules and regulations are needed. One of the primary issues has been interstate travel, as several shipments of federally legal hemp have been seized before. Gaining rules that apply across the nation is one way to ensure transportation safety.

Unfortunately, the bill included a requirement for all labs to be registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency; however, this requirement will not need to be met until January 2022. Some have assumed that this is because the USDA knows they might not have gotten it right and may change that provision.

Other notable changes include altering the harvest and testing period from 15 days to 30 days. Thus, the testing agencies will have more time to ensure accurate test samples from all cultivators. Additionally, the final rule will implement testing rules such as that testing must include samples from the flower. Their reasoning for this is that because THC is most likely to be in the flower, it should be tested directly, rather than performing a whole plant test.

As for remediation options, first, the cultivators can start by simply “removing and destroying flower material, while retaining stalk, stems, leaf material, and seeds.” Otherwise, cultivators can shred the entire plant and retest it for compliance. Visit the USDA’s page for additional information on remediation and disposal regulations.

Whenever a cheap material is available, big money is to be made. Hot hemp may seem like a tragedy, but it will also be a goldmine for those who can either remediate the crop or make use of the biomass.

Moving Forward and Making Money

Over the 21st century, the American cannabis landscape has changed completely. Now, additional efforts are being made to reschedule cannabis, decriminalize cannabis, and help include cannabis in the world of pharmacology. No matter what happens, with pressure like this, something has to give. Cultivators and consumers have little to worry about; the industry won’t be going anywhere.

Rather, we should view the industry with excitement and ambition. While it might be slow, the law is increasingly on the side of cannabis. So entrepreneurs and businesses will see significant gains on all of their successful forays into the world of cannabis and hemp.

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