USDA Official Says Hemp Rules Just Weeks Away

Players and prospective players in the hemp and CBD space can finally breathe easy after word got out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to issue draft final rules on hemp production in a couple of weeks. For the past few years, CBD has been garnering interest among the medical, beauty, and wellness industry. The compound is extracted from the hemp plant, and it is effective against a ton of medical conditions, ranging from insomnia and anxiety to epilepsy.

Until 2018, the cultivation of industrial hemp was prohibited due to cannabis’ status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. The Farm Bill of 2018 changed all this, legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Players have been quick to flood the industry with products, but regulation is still loose at this stage. “States are currently working their way through the rulemaking process, but they do need guidance,” says Sen. Joni Ernst. During a hearing before the Senate Agricultural Committee on Thursday, she asked USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky to provide a timeline for the release of the federal hemp regulations.

“We would expect to be issuing the interim final rule here within the next couple of weeks,” said the Deputy Secretary, “we have been working in the interagency clearance process for over 90 days, working with some of our federal colleagues through the (White House Office of Management and Budget) process to get input there. I think we’re nearing, just about at the end of that process.”

According to Censky, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has been working aggressively to stand up the Hemp Program in advance of the 2020 planting season, which has involved soliciting stakeholder feedback including but not limited to an open webinar listening session in March 2019. “Many voices were represented during this listening session, and the insights offered during this and other stakeholder input were used by AMS to draft an interim rule.” He adds that over the last few months, the USDA has been working with federal partners to ensure the burden on producers does not conflict with existing programs and to ensure the burden on producers and other stakeholders is minimized.

The officials noted concern on two fronts: opportunities for tribes to participate in hemp production and the effects the regulation will have in the agricultural lending industry. Censky noted that those conversations had been productive and had provided an overall improvement to the design of the Hemp Production Program. “Based on the most recent discussions, many of the initial concerns have been addressed, and it has been indicated the rule should be cleared for publication.” He added that they looked forward to having this program available to interested States, tribes, and producers.

Experts agree that industry players like VPR Brands LP (OTCQB: VPRB) and Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) are massively relieved to hear that hemp producers will have a solid framework within which to base their activities.

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