On January 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its final rule that provides regulations for the production of hemp in the United States. The final rule incorporates modifications to the interim final rule that has been in place since October 31, 2019, however, much of the regulatory paradigm remains unchanged. Below are some highlights from the final rule:

  • DEA Certification Requirement

Consistent with the interim final rule, the final rule requires DEA certification for laboratories testing hemp for THC levels and purity. This will most likely result in fewer laboratories available overall for hemp testing. This rule will not be enforced until December 31, 2022 because there is already an insufficient number of DEA-licensed laboratories available for hemp testing.

  • .3% THC Limit for Hemp and Heightened Negligence Standard

The USDA did not raise the 0.3% THC limit for what qualifies as Farm Bill-Compliant hemp, as opposed to Schedule 1 marijuana. However, the final rule increases the negligence threshold from 0.5% to 1% THC. Under the final rule, the maximum number of negligence violations that a farmer can receive in a calendar year is limited to one. Farmers who receive three negligence violations over a 5-year period will be barred from producing hemp for 5 years.

  • Increased Sampling Window

The USDA increased the timeframe in which farmers must harvest their hemp crops after sampling for THC threshold testing. Under the interim final rule, farmers had to test a sample batch of their harvest no more than 15 days prior to the anticipated harvest date. Under the final rule, farmers must harvest within 30 calendar days of sampling.

  • Hot Harvest Disposal

Under the interim final rule, farmers were limited in their options to dispose of their hot harvest compliantly, all of which required an outside contractor to remove the noncompliant harvest. The final rule incorporates several options for on-farm disposal of hemp that tests above the allowable THC limits. Remediation techniques allowed include blending the entire plant to use as bio mass, and disposing of the THC concentrated hemp flowers and using the remainder of the plant for other purposes.

The final rule is effective March 22 of this year. You can find the full publication of the final rule here.