USDA has finalized the interim hemp rule that generated a lot of well deserved critical feedback from hemp-friendly states and the industry. While the rule making process worked in favor the industry by alleviating some of the major pain points in the interim rule, such as now allowing up to 30-days to test the THC of a crop before harvest instead of the initial 15-day window, several of the industry's main objections were unanswered in the final rule.
One of the main complaints from the industry is the requirement to have hemp crop tested at a DEA-registered facility, a requirement which remained unchanged in the final rule. The fact is, the federal law is written that any product above 0.3% THC is marijuana, so any testing needs to involve DEA since they are the only agency allowed to handle controlled substances. Some efforts have started to push new legislation that will create a larger THC safe zone for the hemp industry because modern hemp processing techniques create products that are temporarily but routinely over 0.3% THC. In fact, some states have already adopted such safe haven measures, creating exemptions for products that exceed the 0.3% threshold during processing so long as the final sellable product is diluted to below the federal standard. These exemptions are beginning to create a patchwork of hemp regulations reminiscent of the recreation cannabis industry, where companies may be operating pursuant to state law, but are technically violating the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
The USDA Final Hemp Rule helps move the industry forward somewhat, but until we get comprehensive cannabis reform that regulates the whole plant, not just those plants under 0.3% THC, growth in both the hemp and marijuana industries will be stifled.