Two Senators from Oregon have written to the USDA asking the agency to make some adjustments to the interim hemp final rule before they are finalized. The letter, written on Wednesday, was signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. Both are Democrats from Oregon.
The two lawmakers were particularly concerned about two regulations which the regulator had suspended temporarily but has intentions of reinstating. The first has to do with requiring all hemp farmers to have their crops tested only at labs certified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”).
Previously, there had been an outcry about the shortage of DEA-registered labs across the country, and that feedback prompted the USDA to suspend this particular regulation for a while. The Senators are concerned that the USDA recently published a list of approved hemp testing labs, and all of them are certified by the DEA. However, none of them is located within Oregon, and that means that the implementation of the requirement to use only DEA-certified labs will impose added costs and inconveniences to Oregon farmers since they will have no choice but to ship samples out of state for testing. The lawmakers are therefore calling on the USDA to drop this particular rule altogether.
The second regulation that the Senators have issues with is the stipulation that any “hot hemp” (hemp whose THC concentration is found to exceed the federally imposed limit) should be destroyed under the supervision of the DEA.
The Senators say that since the DEA wasn’t involved during the testing and destruction of hot hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill (which established pilot programs), there is no need for the agency to be in charge of destroying non-compliant hemp.
The lawmakers suggest that the USDA revises its rules to allow farmers to dispose of hot hemp in a way that is in line with agricultural practices and enriches the soil’s health. For example, farmers can compost the hot hemp and use it to fertilize their land. The farmers can also use disking to boost soil health using the rejected crop.
The two Senators also mentioned other changes that they would like the federal regulator to implement in order to create a suitable regulatory framework for the hemp industry.
For example, the Senators recommend that the threshold for the legally accepted THC limit be lifted from the current 0.5% to at least 1%. That threshold marks the level at which a farmer can be prosecuted for growing marijuana, and it shouldn’t be confused with the 0.3% THC content which is acceptable in hemp-derived products. This change may be a tough one to make since Secretary Sonny Perdue admitted that the restrictive threshold was the result of the DEA’s adamant position on the matter. Analysts say sector players like The Alkaline Water Company Inc. (NASDAQ: WTER) (CSE: WTER) are all hoping that the USDA pays close attention to the comments it received and makes changes which will not throttle the young industry.
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