USDA not ready to raise hemp THC levels, despite multiple requests

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The federal agency asserts that it cannot change the current policy since it was implemented by Congress

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is washing its hands and last Thursday declared that it is not within its scope to modify regulations on the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that can be present in hemp. According to the USDA, only Congress can update that policy in particular; however, the agency seems to be open to modify other aspects of hemp rules that are the focus of many complaints. Before any modifications are made, the federal agency is going to launch a public comment period on the final interim rules before they’re set in stone.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was defined as cannabis plants that contain no more than 0.3% THC, and this is something both lawmakers and stakeholders have tried to change several times. This is a very strict rule, given that the threshold limit is 0.5%, meaning that any farmer that exceeds this percentage in a 10-year period will be facing the possibility of being banned for good from cultivating hemp.

“The Farm Bill set forth these requirements,” Bruce Summers, acting administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, said recently. “Any changes to these requirements require legislative action.”

USDA officials acknowledged that several requests have been received, but, since it’s written in the bill, only Congress can change it. “To go from 0.3 to one percent would have to be a statutory change,” explains Summers. “In other words, Congress would have to take action. We couldn’t do that by regulation.”

According to Summers, it is understandable that THC levels can increase due to things such as droughts or other environmental factors and, even though a farmer does everything in his hands, it can still happen. The agency said that any crop that surpasses that amount needs to be disposed of, and limited from receiving crop insurance programs, including the two pilot programs that were recently announced by the USDA.