New hemp legislation has been introduced designed to address unresolved issues associated with the 2018 Farm Bill, including THC limits.
Hemp has been legal in the USA since the 2018 Farm Bill and is defined as Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent by dry weight. Cannabis with above 0.3 percent is considered marijuana, which remains illegal at a federal level.
This poses a number of challenges for the country’s hemp farmers. It restricts the choice of varieties they can grow, and even among particularly lower THC strains there is the risk of crops going “hot”, meaning the crop needs to be destroyed. Depending on the circumstances, a farmer may also face criminal charges.
There is also the issue of THC levels temporarily increasing while hemp is being processed into a final product below 0.3 percent.
The 0.3 per cent THC limit puts farmers at a disadvantage in terms of competitiveness. In some jurisdictions around the world, legal hemp THC levels are considerably higher. For example, in Western Australia, the maximum THC level is 1 per cent.
Early this week, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022, which seeks to "improve" the 2018 Farm Bill’s hemp provisions.
“I am introducing The Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 to eliminate unworkable testing requirements, set reasonable THC thresholds for producers and processors while protecting consumers, and end the discriminatory policy that bans people with drug convictions from growing legal hemp,” said Congresswoman Pingree.
The Act would raise the allowable THC threshold for hemp and in-process hemp extract to 1%. It would also provide additional protections for the processing and transportation of “hot” hemp, remove the Drug Enforcement Administration’s monopoly on registering hemp testing laboratories and repeal the ban preventing most persons with a felony drug-related conviction from obtaining a hemp license.
One provision of the Hemp Advancement Act, however, is sure to be controversial. In addition to increasing the THC cap on hemp products, the bill includes all forms of THC in the 1% percent limit. That would likely mean the end of the growing market for products made with delta-8 THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids that can be derived from hemp. Miller says that the legislation will create “separate regulatory pathways for non-intoxicating hemp and intoxicating adult-use cannabis products.” But August Battles, the CEO of delta-8 THC products manufacturer Vance Global, says that the change would likely be devastating to small businesses.
“By changing the definition of THC to include isomers like delta-8, the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 could put hundreds of farmers, manufacturers, brands, and distributors out of business,” Battles writes in an email. “Consumers looking for hemp products would no longer be able to purchase products from "above-ground" businesses that provide transparent analytic results of their products. We support raising the THC limit to 1% without the sneaky add-ons that have been placed in this hemp ‘advancement’ bill.”
The Hemp Advancement Act could affect the future of other cannabinoids as well, says Shawn Hauser, a partner with the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.
“While the bill is clearly intended to prohibit the sale of intoxicating hemp products (many of which are prohibited under state laws and the Federal Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act), there is risk that the language may unintentionally bar certain non-intoxicating cannabinoids that are safely made subject to processing and food safety standards or smokeable hemp products,” Hauser explains. “Many states are struggling to establish appropriate legal standards distinguishing non-intoxicating hemp products and intoxicating products, with many limiting intoxicating hemp products to adult-use cannabis stores.”
Pingree’s Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 has already gathered significant support from within the industry, including the Hemp Roundtable.
“We are deeply grateful to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for her strong leadership in spearheading this legislation on behalf of hemp growers, processors, and consumers nationwide,” said the organization.
Under this so-called Hemp Advancement Act, THC would be measured as a total of all isomers in finished hemp products: delta-8, delta-9, delta-10, and “the optical isomers of such substances.’’ Furthermore, according to language in this bill, the total THC limit for finished products would remain 0.3 percent. This would effectively make delta-8 and other hemp derived THC products in their current form illegal across the entire nation. This legislation would completely upend the market and is alarmingly being touted by many as beneficial for our industry. At PSNet Cannabis Distribution we are firmly opposed to its passing. We ask that you contact your elected representatives today and let them know that you oppose the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 as well! Together we can stop DC from limiting our freedoms once again.