Maine Backtracks on Plan to Double Hemp License Fees

The budding U.S. hemp sector can only be described as chaotic. After decades of prohibition, hemp cultivation became legal after Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill. However, the barebones legislation granted only one provision, all hemp had to have less than 0.3% THC for it to be legal. Months later, in October, the USDA published its interim final rule on hemp.

In just a couple of months, the hemp industry was worth millions in sales. A large chunk of the demand for hemp can be attributed to cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical that’s produced by the plant. It’s said to have medicinal properties, and users claim it’s effective against everything from high blood pressure and anxiety to insomnia and chronic pain.

However, the only CBD-based medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is epidiolex, a drug used to treat seizures caused by two rare and hard to treat pediatric epilepsies.

Although the new rules were supposed to stabilize the industry, a majority of hemp farmers across the country say the rules are too stringent.

In Maine, however, they can rest easy for a while after the state decided to eschew the USDA’s hemp rules until October when they’ll finally kick in. The state agriculture department had been planning to implement stricter rules that would not only increase the amount of hot hemp drastically but would also cost the farmers more since the operational costs would be passed on to them.

Under the new rules, the state would have doubled the per-acre fee to grow hemp from $50 to $100 to help offset the hemp program’s costs, such as paying for in-person inspections to each site and state reviews of independent potency results.

On Wednesday, the department declared that it had shelved the plans. “The message is clear, 2020 is not the year to increase fees.”

The state was also planning on changing how it defines hemp in an effort to conform with federal regulations that defined hemp with much lower THC levels than Maine. THC or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s infamous high.

Using the new federal potency formula, about 27% of the state’s total hemp harvest would be termed ‘hot’, meaning its THC levels were over federally acceptable levels. Hot hemp has to be destroyed, and although state regulators promised farmers they’d find another alternative, most agreed that the risk was too great.

So until the USDA’s hemp rules kick in on October 31, hemp farmers in Maine can operate under the state’s existing hemp rules.

It would be interesting to learn what hemp companies like MCTC Holdings Inc. (OTC: MCTC) think about this temporary reprieve given to hemp producers in Maine. Is it too little and of no consequence going forward?

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