AHPA participated in the “2018 Farm Bill Listening Session on Domestic Hemp Production Program” conducted by the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) on March 13, 2019. The event provided an opportunity for the agency to receive feedback directly from stakeholders regarding development of new regulations implementing the hemp provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill. The format allowed for registered participants to provide up to three minutes of public comment.
Several commenters expressed disappointment at the pace of development of the new regulations, as USDA has previously announced that the agency does not expect to have new regulations and guidance in place prior to the 2020 growing season. The agency will also not approve hemp production plans submitted by state and tribal governments until such time as the federal regulations are in place. That means that hemp production in 2019 is still governed by what is currently allowed under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. Other commenters requested more immediate agency assistance in addressing continued issues with interstate commerce and access to financial services.
Participants raised a number of areas of operational concern during the listening session. Several commenters noted the current lack of a common state approach to basic practices such as the sampling of hemp plants (pre- or post-harvest, how much plant material to collect, how many plants are sampled, etc.). Analytical testing was another frequently mentioned issue, with respect to which analytical method(s) should be used, whether laboratories should be accredited for cannabinoid testing, and what form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) should be used to determine compliance. Such disparities can mean that hemp grown in one jurisdiction could be found to be non-compliant, but acceptable in another jurisdiction that utilizes different practices.
Representatives of several states described elements that may be included in their hemp plans and relayed questions to be addressed by USDA in the development of federal regulations. It was also evident that some states are confused about the respective roles that USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will play in the regulation of hemp products now that hemp cultivation has been legalized. This issue highlights the importance of the cooperative approach the AHPA is taking in conjunction with Vote Hemp, Hemp Industries Association (HIA), and the U.S. Hemp Roundtable to advocate for consistent state and tribal regulations that result in a harmonized regulatory environment and seamless interstate commerce for hemp and hemp-derived products.
No specific policy decisions were announced by USDA during the event, and AHPA will stay engaged as the agency develops and issues draft regulations and guidance for the legal hemp industry.