The American hemp industry has seen a lot of upheavals since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp and gave farmers all over the country leeway to grow the cash crop. In the year that followed, the sector grew by leaps and bounds. However, it was barely regulated, and farmers, processors and other players were having a hard time running their operations.
Heeding to calls from industry players and politicians, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its interim final rule on hemp in October 2018. One of its stipulations was that farmers would be required to test their crops for THC levels at DEA-certified labs. The rule, however, didn’t give any provision for where and how farmers were to find these labs.
The USDA has finally published a list of 37 testing facilities authorized to test hemp concentration under the interim rule. The agency also stated that licensed hemp producers should first verify with their licensing body, USDA, state or tribe, where their hemp will be tested.
As per the 2018 Farm Bill, all hemp grown under state or tribal programs has to have less than 0.3% THC. The USDA’s interim final rule on hemp expanded the language, stating that farmers had to test their crops’ THC levels only at DEA-certified facilities, and any hemp that exceeds the limit, called ‘hot hemp’, would have to be destroyed.
The rule also says that the sampling of hemp flower material must be conducted within 15 days of harvest by a USDA-approved sampling agent, either a federal, state or local law enforcement body. Alternatively, states could also submit their own sampling and testing protocols to the USDA for consideration of they could result in comparable or similarly reliable testing results.
Soon after the rules were released, farmers and industry players expressed their displeasure, saying they were too stringent and they would spell doom for the budding sector. For starters, they said limiting the testing window to only five days, and only at DEA-certified facilities would result in bottlenecks and delays, especially in rural or remote places, that could potentially ruin a harvest.
If the hemp isn’t harvested soon enough, the cannabidiol will degrade and lose potency, and the harvest will be worthless. Cannabidiol is one of the cannabinoids produced by hemp, and most of the demand for hemp is driven by cannabidiol’s popularity as a sort of cure-all.
It now remains to be seen what sector players like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) have to say about that list of accredited labs that has just been published by the federal regulator.
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