Hemp Industries Association® Responds to USDA Interim Final Rule

03 Feb 2020 6:47 PM | Erin Pully (Administrator)

The HIA® submits comments with aims of protecting the hemp industry

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VANCOUVER, January 30, 2020 -- On October 31, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) to establish the Domestic Hemp Production Program as required by the 2018 Farm Bill. After requests from members of Congress and state officials seeking further time for public feedback, the USDA extended the comment period on the U.S. Hemp Production Program IFR until January 29, 2020. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) has since submitted comments in response to the rule, with the aim of protecting the flourishing hemp industry.

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill demonstrated Congress’ intentions to promote and establish the U.S. as a global leader in the hemp industry. The HIA believes that the IFR, if implemented, will have the effect of stifling burgeoning markets and industries, and further disadvantaging America’s farmers and manufacturers as international hemp markets in China, Canada, and Europe continue expansion.

The HIA has identified multiple points of concern with the IFR, but the association’s submitted comments focus on the concerns that they consider most pressing. The HIA believes that from the outset, the priorities and intentions of Congress appear to be misconstrued by the USDA.

"It was our hope and expectation that the USDA would take the initiative provided by Congress to properly setup hemp regulations -- allowing for all legal parts of the plant, including THC limit of 0.3 percent, to be cultivated, processed and put into commerce, providing benefit to the American Farmer and consumer simultaneously. However, it appears that the Drug Enforcement Administration is still deeply involved in what Congress clearly defined as an U.S. Hemp Production Program IFR until January 29, 2020. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) has since submitted comments in response to the rule, with the aim of protecting the flourishing hemp industrial agricultural crop and specifically outside the purview of a controlled substance," said Rick Trojan, Vice President of the Hemp Industries Association.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and tetrahydrocannabinol derived from hemp were formally removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) ergo removing the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) authority over hemp. Yet, the IFR mentions the DEA 42 times within its 43 pages. The IFR brings the DEA into the picture again with another item of concern: testing and sampling. The testing and sampling methodology and protocols that are outlined in the IFR require DEA approved lab facilities. This requirement would devastate the CBD industry and the smokable hemp industry could be totally destroyed.

Another major point of concern for the HIA is THC measurements. According to the IFR, THC measurements are to include THC conversion for total THC, an item that was never contemplated by Congress. Furthermore, by relinquishing mandated authority to the DEA, the USDA exposes stakeholders to the unnecessary threat of criminal and civil liability. Growers could be found criminally negligent for hemp that tests over 0.5 percent THC, placing American farmers in the same classification as intentional criminals for environmental or other factors outside of a farmer’s control.

The HIA is emphasizing that stakeholders in the hemp industry cannot continue to be embroiled in the unjust, expensive, and tedious confusion and lawsuits caused by the refusal to implement the law as it was intended by Congress.

“We urge the USDA to properly implement a hemp program that provides our American farmers insulation from DEA, as Congress clearly defined hemp as outside the Controlled Substances Act. Failure to create a regulatory infrastructure to protect American farmers while they grow a new and beneficial agricultural crop, not an illegal drug, will continue to place America behind countries like China, Canada and European Union. We urge Congress to act if the USDA fails to meet its obligation in this instance," says Rick Trojan.

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About the Hemp Industries Association ®

Hemp Industries Association ® (HIA®) is a 501(c)(6), membership-based, non-profit organization that works to advance the hemp economy and educate the market for the benefit of members, the public, and the planet. Since its founding in 1994, The HIA has worked tirelessly for its 1,500-plus members to expand and protect the sale and marketing of hemp products. The culmination of that work was the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which officially redefined hemp as an agricultural commodity and removed it from the purview of the Controlled Substances Act, thereby paving the way for a massive expansion of the market and positioning hemp producers to be a global economic force.

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