USDA Announces Final Rule for Hemp Production

On Friday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it had published a Final Rule for the Domestic Production of Hemp. The rule, which modifies current hemp laws and relaxes some restrictions, will become effective on March 22, according to the USDA press release

The Final Rule reportedly incorporates modifications that were part of the October 2019 interim final rule, based on public comments after the interim rule was published, and derived from “lessons learned” from the 2020 hemp growing season. The rule makes modifications to licensing requirements, recordkeeping, THC concentration testing procedures, procedures for disposal of plants that do not meet the correct THC levels, and other procedures for violations. 

Greg Ibach, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary, said in the press release, “with the publication of this final rule, USDA brings to a close a full and transparent rule-making process that started with a hemp listening session in March 2019 … USDA staff have taken the information you have provided through three comment periods and from your experiences over a growing season to develop regulations that meet Congressional intent while providing a fair, consistent, science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers. USDA staff will continue to conduct education and outreach to help industry achieve compliance with the requirements.”

An overview of the rule explained that under the new rule the “negligence threshold” for the acceptable THC level is raised from .5 percent to 1 percent, but a producer is limited to one violation each growing season. Because the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not registered a sufficient number of labs for testing, the rule allows for non-DEA registered labs to test hemp through the start of next year, while it considers more applications for labs to become registered. Additionally, the window for sampling hemp was extended from 15 to 30 days. 

Relating to tribal authority for growing hemp, the overview said, “the final rule provides that a tribe may exercise jurisdiction and therefore regulatory authority over the production of hemp throughout its territory regardless of the extent of its inherent regulatory authority.” 

Hemp became legal federally in the United States with the 2018 Farm Bill, which also required the USDA to develop these rules for the production of hemp.