USDA Releases Interim Final Rule

On Halloween, the USDA released its Interim Final Rule on the industrial hemp program. The draft had been released earlier in the week and took effect on Oct. 31, 2019.

What does this mean? Most immediately, it means the USDA is prepared to start accepting hemp growing program plans from states and First Nations tribal lands. Individuals in states and on tribal lands which do not have legislation that allows growing hemp will be able to apply directly to the USDA for a license after Dec. 30, 2019, to allow for state and tribal plans to be approved first.

This rule concerns hemp production only. It does not concern CBD regulation rules. The Food and Drug Administration has been charged with promulgating those rules.

So what’s in the rule? At a glance:

  • Seed importation requirements for seeds from Canada or other nations besides Canada. In Iowa, the Iowa Crop Improvement Association is the entity to certify any hemp seed.
  • Basic Plan requirements to establish a growth implementation plan: the growing plot’s legal description and geospatial location and producer reporting requirements; Sampling and THC-testing procedure requirements (specifically, sampling must occur at least 15 days prior to harvest, and testing of the samples must be done at DEA-registered laboratory; procedural requirements for “hot” crop disposal; compliance expectations with enforcement procedures, which includes procedures on handling negligent violations and a corrective action plan; an agreement of information sharing between state or tribal agencies; and finally a certification of resources to implement and sustain the proposed growing plan.
  • Since all crops must be subjected to inspection, the testing methods must use a post-decarboxylation/gas or liquid chromatography. The total THC contained in the plant will be the THC measurement + the conversion amount of delta-9-THC acid (THCA). However, the USDA warned in the rule, a measurement of uncertainty on the .3 percent THC in a plant simply must be taken into account and reported as part of any hemp test results. An “acceptable hemp THC level” means the .3 percent must fall within the range of the measurement of uncertainty.
  • An applicant for a license must agree to a background check. Individuals convicted of a drug felony for 10 years following the date of conviction is prohibited from growing hemp.

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