USDA’s New Legal Advice on Hemp Production

Legal Opinion on Authorities for Hemp Production

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) authorized the production of hemp and removed hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances. In response to questions raised concerning provisions pertaining to the interstate transportation of hemp and who may obtain a license to produce hemp, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) has concluded the following:

  1. As of the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill on December 20, 2018, hemp has been removed from schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and is no longer a controlled substance.
  2. After USDA publishes regulations implementing the new hemp production provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill, States and Indian tribes may not prohibit the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp lawfully produced under a State or Tribal plan or under a license issued under the USDA plan.
  3. States and Indian tribes also may not prohibit the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp lawfully produced under the 2014 Farm Bill.
  4. A person with a State or Federal felony conviction relating to a controlled substance is subject to a 10-year ineligibility restriction on producing hemp under the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. An exception applies to a person who was lawfully growing hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill before December 20, 2018, and whose conviction also occurred before that date.

An executive summary and a complete legal analysis are available on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website.

Federal Enforcement Action on CBD

I am sure many of you have seen a document similar to the one that I have attached below.  The FDA has been sending reams of warning letters to companies that are involved in someway with CBD.  Of the letters I have seen most were sent to individuals operating websites that were offering CBD products on line.  Although I have seen other types of letters where the FDA, after a plant inspection, accuses the maker of CBD products of manufacturing unapproved drugs. 

However, at this point in time I have heard from no one that has been able to confirm that the FDA has taken any concrete steps to enforce the warnings in these letters.
I am well aware that there are scores of arrests, seizures and detentions occurring across the U.S, with regard to CBD. But as far as I know they have all have been done only by state or local law enforcement. I have been told by many people about FDA or other Federal law enforcement actions against CBD manufacturers and operators but all such claims have been apocryphal.  I have seen no positive evidence that even one such action has actually occurred.

If any of you are aware of the FDA or any other federal law enforcement agency bringing any sort of enforcement action against anyone or organization that involves  cannabinoid prodcuts that are below .3 percent THC level please let me know. 

Any information would be much appreciated.  

2018 Farm Bill Listening Session on Domestic Hemp Production Program (March 13, 2019)

Enclosed are the comments I promised on the USDA three hour webinar on Hemp and CBD products derived from Hemp that occurred on March 13, 2019.  Sorry for the delay.  Like everyone else connected to the Cannabis industry there just does not seem to be enough time in the day.   I listened to the entire Webinar last week put on by the USDA that concerned the issue of Hemp cultivation.  Unfortunately, the webinar for me created more questions than it answered.  Many of you may want to ignore this post and wait until I can get some more definitive answers from the USDA.  I did send the USDA a slew of questions, however, at this point I have heard nothing, and I don’t know if I ever will.  If I do get answers I will post them promptly.

If you are interested in the webinar I have summarized my findings below.   These comments are for people that have a strong pecuniary interest in having an accurate and comprehensive understanding of all the legal issues surrounding Hemp and CBD.   This post is not purely altruistic.  As the readers of this  post have a strong interest in the subject, I am hoping some of you reply to me with any pertinent information you may have.  As I suspect is the case with most of the people viewing this post, I have a lot of people depending on me for accurate information on this issue, so any comments would be much appreciated.

I also have a few points to make about my summary of the webinar. You will see that I include some extensive direct quotes of people asking questions in the webinar.  I include these quotes because many people that participated in the webinar ask questions that include assumptions.  It is these assumptions I found important because they help illuminate what the conventional wisdom among those “in the know” are at this time.  In other words, it is these assumptions that are telling as to what the current accepted norms are as to legal hemp and CBD. The questions also illuminate what areas of the law are clearly in the grey and which areas as of yet seem to be decided.

I realize I am using what seem to be massive quotes.  I use these quotes because sometimes I am not sure exactly what the speaker is trying to say, so I am more comfortable in quoting them directly so I don’t misrepresent what they have said.  Please believe me when I say I have cut out most of the verbiage of the meeting.  Believe it or not I have erred on the side of exclusion.  I have cut out so much I am afraid I may have missed something important.

In any event, here is my summary of the three hour webinar.

Here is a direct quote from the beginning which I believe is important:

“President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018. Farm Bill on December 20th. In it were provisions allowing USDA to approve plans submitted by states, territories, and Indian tribes for the commercial production of hemp.

The Farm Bill also tasked USDA to establish a program for producers located in the states or in the territories, or controlled by tribal governments that does not have a USDA-approved plan. We’re currently formulating our plans here at USDA for how will implement these Farm Bill provisions for him.

The 2018 Farm Bill also extends the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill allowing institutions of higher education and State departments of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp at certified and registered locations for 12 months after USDA establishes the plan that we’re beginning to work on now.”

The take away from this statement is that states need to submit a plan to the USDA, and the USDA must accept this plan before private individuals can grow hemp for profit in that particular state.  This statement also seems to imply that the USDA at some future date will provide a program for private hemp growers to grow hemp for profit if their state or other controlling jurisdiction even though such jurisdiction or state does not have an approved plan.

However, from some of the statements you will see later it seems that some states are allowing people to grow hemp for profit in their state.  I am not sure why this is happening, and why people responsible for overseeing hemp cultivation in their states are openly admitting that they are letting individuals produce hemp for profit in their state in front of officials from the USDA.

Another important point to add to the confusion is that certain individuals and entities were allowed to grow hemp under special licensing programs starting in 2014 and such licenses will be extended and further granted under this licensing program.  What is unclear is whether such hemp can be used for commercial purposes.  It seems to me the answer to this question should be readily available but at this point I have not been able to determine if hemp grown under these special licenses can or cannot be used for commercial purposes as of the first of this year.  My instincts tell me that hemp grown under the licensing program cannot be used for commercial purposes but I have been given conflicting answers to that question from people whom I respect.

The next important direct quote is:” It is USDA’s intention to issue regulations in the fall of 2019 and accommodate and hopefully to accommodate the 2020 planting season.”

So the USDA is trying to get its act together so that commercial hemp can be grown in the 2020 growing season.  This statement seems to imply that all hemp grown prior to the 2020 growing season cannot be used for commercial profit.

Pennsylvania was the first state to weigh in on the conversation. Sonia Jimenez, who is the Deputy Administrator for Specialty Crops (which is a Division of the Agriculture Resource Management at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection), said the following:

 “We had only 245 grower licenses last year, and obviously that’s jumped up to over 1400, so we do anticipate some challenges related to the sampling season.”


 I have to believe that many of these 1400 licensees are selling their hemp commercially but that issue was not discussed in the webinar.


She continued to state that: “The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture submitted its state plan for hemp regulation to USDA on January 22, 2019 as required by the 2018 Farm Bill. Using authority from Pennsylvania’s law concerning Controlled Plants and Noxious Weeds the department is seeking to classify hemp as a controlled plant, which will require all growers to register and obtain a growing permit.”

Looks like Pennsylvania is ahead in the game.

She went on to say that Pennsylvania “encourages USDA to quickly provide national standards for laboratory testing procedures, including plant sampling and certification of laboratories.  This is imperative for interstate commerce, as well as consumer protection and confidence in hemp products. Growers are planting in multiple states and need consistency, especially when shipping product to processing facilities that may require transport across state lines.  USDA’s inspection, sampling, testing, and record keeping provisions have been developed through consultation with other states.”

The sentiment in this statement seems painfully obvious and I only included it because this sentiment was echoed again and again by other speakers in the webinar. What this statement shows is that the USDA has not addressed any of the issues stated above and everyone desperately wants them to.

The next issue she brings up is the THC content.  Another critical issue that USDA seems to not have addressed by the date of this webinar, and not surprisingly, it seems critical for everyone that they do:

She stated: “for growers in good standing who agree to process hemp found to be higher than 0.3 percent THC for industrial purposes only.  Pennsylvania strongly urges USDA to work quickly to provide critical federal guidance for consistency for growers and processors. This includes working with sister agencies to assure the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill are realized and implemented by the DEA, FDA, DOJ, federal banking entities, crop insurance providers, and others. Does USDA plan to regulate hemp processors and will federal guidelines be provided to states?”

This is quote is a double edged comment.  First she wants the FDA to solidify the .3 percent guideline for THC whereby everything below that is legal.  And in addition, she would like to see it so that if the THC level is above .3 percent such hemp can still be used for Industrial purposes.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring of North Dakota weighed in “North Dakota has been a leader and pushing for the ability to grow industrial hemp for many years. The new legislation eliminating the gray area between hemp and marijuana, and also providing other clarification on what is legal and what is not, will greatly improve state programs and put all states on a level playing field.”

This statements seems to imply that .3 guideline is now the standard.

“Additionally, USDA could be extremely useful in establishing consistent protocols for states to use and destroying products that are above THC levels. An area that could be improved is the current system for importing hemp seed into the United States.


So if it is above .3 North Dakota assumes it must be destroyed on not available for industrial use.


North Dakota goes on to say: “This system currently requires a DEA import permit and will likely cause many issues with commercial growers. We have utilized many Canadian seed varieties throughout the pilot program years and have seen no issues with high THC levels in these varietiesWe would recommend that the restrictions on importing hemp seed be changed now for the 2019 growing season, to allow better import of those seeds rather than waiting another season for the USDA to generate rules.”

I have included this clause because you can import seeds from Canada.  But this begs the questions about importing hemp from other nations that are under (and over) the .3 requirement.

Next Paul Bailey, the Director of the Plant Industries Division at the Missouri Department of Agriculture, weighed in:

“Missouri General Assembly created an industrial hemp pilot program to be administered by the Department of Agriculture and hopes to give out licenses this fall.”

So Missouri looks like it is at least in the game.

Next Kate Greenburg of Colorado weighed in.  As a side note, Colorado seems to be miles ahead of everyone else on this issue and seems to be already allowing hemp to be grown for commercially profitable uses.

Greenburg states (edited for the important parts): “Colorado has been and will remain a leader in hemp production. Colorado accounted for more than half of the nation’s industrial hemp production. As of 2018, Colorado’s home to 835 licensed producers, 1200 registered land areas, and over 31,000 outdoor acres and 100 indoor acres of license cultivation space.

We also launched the first certified hemp seed program in the US and hire the first industrial hemp-certified seed specialist in the country, to give growers a great deal of confidence in the quality of their seed.


In addition, we need nationally accepted transportation solutions for the safe and efficient movement of hemp and hemp products. It is critical that our agencies and law enforcement work together efficiently on this matter.”

Colorado is already fully engaged in hemp production and doesn’t seem to be waiting for the USDA to catch up.  They seem to be saying we want the USDA to settle these issues but we are not going to wait.

Another important speaker was Courtney Moran, who is a founding principle of EARTH Law, LLC and Chief Legislative Strategist for Agricultural Hemp Solutions, LLC. I only include her comment because she worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Ron Wyden to draft the Agricultural bill.  Not surprisingly she seemed very knowledgeable about the subject.

She states “Section 101.14 provides that nothing in the horticultural title of the 2018 Farm Bill prohibits the interstate commerce of hemp or hemp products.


It further prevents states and tribal governments for prohibiting the transportation of hemp or hemp products through the state or the territory.


However, we continue to learn of hemp crop and product seizures by law enforcement for simple transportation of the commodity. As a result, many trucking and shipping companies are not offering hemp business owner shipping services.  While the US Postal Service has created a pathway, the industry needs USDA to develop clear guidance for the transportation of hemp to discourage states and local law enforcement from interfering with shipments of hemp and hemp products that were legally produced in another state.”

Correct me if I am wrong, but she seems to be implying that it is not legal to transport duly licensed hemp across state lines, and any law enforcement agency that impedes the transportation of such hemp is in violation of federal law.  Please correct me if I am wrong.

She goes on to state: “Another issue that needs immediate attention is access to banking with financial institutions. The industry requests the USDA to work in collaboration with the Department of Treasury and issuing guidance to alleviate issues regarding access to banking for legal hemp businesses.”


Hopefully the USDA will listen to her.


Another issue she brings up: “With regard to the 2018 Farm Bill felon ban, it was Congress’s intent to restrict only the applicant from growing hemp and not for the restriction to extend to employees.”

Important issue.  Hopefully everyone will adopt her interpretation of the farm bill.

Now the next topic she discusses went way over my head so I will just quote her:

“And one critical topic that many have submitted comments on, testing a Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol levels of hemp plants in the field with a reliable testing method.  The federal definition for hemp specifically refers to Delta-9 THC. The use of high performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry is recommended.  Under the 2014 Farm Bill agricultural pilot program, pre-harvest testing of the crop has been conducted using methods that specifically call for not decarboxylating the sample.  A change now to testing both decarboxylations for total THC will have significant financial negative impacts on domestic breeders favoring foreign varieties, rather than the varieties farmers across the US have bred and have grown for the past four production seasons. The industry encourages USDA to explore options for destruction of non-compliant crops, for example, for the use of non-consumable fiber products.”

If anyone can translate that for me I would very much appreciate it.

Next, the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles, weighed in:

“When you look at the beginning of 2019, we have expanded to over 1,000 licensed growers to cultivate up to potential 50,000 acres this year.  For context, last year we approved 12,000 acres and about half of that was planted. Economic data for 2017 showed us that hemp has economic potential.  We don’t know if it can replace tobacco, but we know that it’s becoming part of our greater agricultural portfolio.  And to prove this, here are some numbers from 2017; $7.5 million dollars were paid to Kentucky growers, $16.7 million of gross domestic product sales drive our Kentucky count and $26 million was invested in capital improvements. These numbers show that hemp is a viable economic crop. Even with that story of success, industrial hemp has several concerns as we begin to move towards commercialization.”

Kentucky like Colorado is clearly ahead of the game.  Kentucky or Colorado right now seems to be the “go to” states for hemp. Next Quarles states what many other speakers weighed in on.  I will just include what Quarles said and not quote others.  But the following was said over and over again:

“First, it is a concern that involves with the financial sector.  Too often we hear that lending institutions are fearful of granting a loan to a hemp-related entity for fear of liability. We should work to correct that misperception.  These farmers and companies need access to capital, just like any other farmer or agribusiness. The second concerns involvement with the FDA.  We need clear common sense guidance from the FDA (and maybe even Congress) about what the FDA plans to do about CBD and other derivatives of industrial hemp.  This is where Kentucky’s hemp program has been focused, in generating these nutraceuticals, supplements and oils. If the FDA regulates too hard against CBD, It would really harm small Kentucky family-farm farmers. We’ve got to develop rules that allow our farmers an opportunity to continue exploring this crop and benefiting economically from it, especially during a period of depressed farm cash receipts.  The last thing I would like to say is that we would recommend USDA develop uniform THC testing standards and background checks that are consistent on a national level. We appreciate the opportunity to participate and look forward to continuing this discussion.”

At this point it is clear the FDA has not clearly addressed the issue of CBD derivatives from legal hemp.  And right now that is the most important issue to most of the people reading this email.  If anyone has any answers to the questions Ryan Quarles poses to the USDA I would love to hear about it.  Otherwise it seems that right now the FDAs position on products derived from legal hemp is unclear.  And unfortunately, until the FDA says otherwise, it seems the safe position is to assume all CBD products that are smoked or consumed (topical products are also in the grey zone as far as I know) need FDA approval.

The next speaker with pertinent information was Collin Mooney, who serves as Executive Director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.  He states:

“The industrial hemp plant looks like the marijuana plant and cannot be distinguished by appearance or odor. Currently available field kits only measure whether THC is present in a sample, regardless of concentration.  As a result, there is not yet a way to credibly measure the amount of THC present quickly and accurately at roadside in order to verify that the hemp material being transported is below the allowed .3% THC threshold.  Furthermore, since the state drug labs that can make this distinction already have a backlog of work, this could lead to unavoidable delays and traffic stops and maybe even mistaken arrests.  Additionally, currently there is not an established process in place to verify that the hemp has been produced under an approved federal or state regulatory plan.  There are serious concerns within the law enforcement community that the transportation of industrial hemp will be used to mask movements of illegal drugs including marijuana.”

Mr. Mooney points out a very serious issue about the transportation of hemp.  At this point law enforcement has no idea if shipment contains marijuana, illegal hemp, or licensed hemp.  It seems to me, until this issue is resolved; transporting hemp will always be a very risky venture.

The next speaker with something interesting to say was Peter Matz of the Marketing Institute.

 “We are the trade association representing the supermarket industry and my membership includes the entire spectrum of retail venues.  Single owner grocery stores and large multi store supermarket chains as well as those that are mixed retail stores. We represent a total number of companies operating roughly 33,000 grocery stores and 12,000 pharmacies, including nearly 5 million workers and customers all across the country.


There is overwhelming consumer interest in products made from hemp and hemp-derived ingredients.  From foods and beverages to supplements and topical products like creams and lotions, the demand for these products for both human and animal use is already pretty staggering and we know that it’s growing. As a result of the growing consumer interest in this emerging market, we are fielding more and more questions from FMI member companies all the time. In short, they’re confused about the current regulatory landscape around the sale of hemp and hemp derivatives; I suspect we can all agree their confusion is pretty understandable. Now FMI understands that the farm bill did not preempt city hemp laws and also that the FDA still has authority over the use of hemp and hemp derivatives and FDA regulated products. But the fact remains that our members are seeking clarity about everything from which kinds of products can be sold legally and where, As well as the labeling requirements, all the way to how to go about sourcing and transporting the hemp and/or hemp derived ingredients.”

I included Mr. Matz’s comments because it demonstrates the huge interest and demand for CBD products.  His organization, which represents massive chains all across the nation are all interested in CBD.  Whoever is able to bring CBD legally to the market will confront a massive demand and thusly unbelievable potential profits.  At least that is my humble opinion.

The next pertinent speaker was Wendy Mosher, the CEO of New West Genetics. There was a lot of incessant wining that I have bypassed but Ms. Mosher made some cogent comments. .

“New West is a leader in hemp genetics. We’re located in Colorado and began our breeding program in 2014. We use modern genomics and traditional breeding to create proprietary, stable, and most importantly compliant hemp seed genetics. Especially in regard to THC level testing and validation, the state of Colorado has an exemplary protocol for testing THC that we hope will be adopted nationally.”

So it seems that Colorado has developed an effective and practical testing protocol that possibly could be adopted federally and enable the Feds to address the transportation enforcement issue delineated above.  It also looks like New West Genetics may be the go to place for Hemp seeds.

The next interesting speaker was Jessica Wasserman, an attorney at Greenspoon Marder, She states:

“One of the key issues is the testing of hemp for being at or below .3 THC percent on a dry weight basis. Hemp is a biomass and testing results will vary according to when the hemp is tested.


USDA must set a testing date that is reasonable, so that once the product is certified on that date, certification is final without retesting.  Congress, in the 2018 Farm Bill, recognized this reality about hemp testing when it sent out that any negligent testing variation calls for an opportunity for corrective action and shall not result in any criminal enforcement action by the federal government or any state government, tribal government or local government.  Clearly, Congress intended that minor variations are to be expected and cannot be criminally enforced. For example, Oregon tests hemp no more than 28 days prior to harvest and Washington is leaning toward a post-harvest testing standard based on the ground whole sample without heat applied. Once the hub is tested and certified the product cannot be subject to retesting because otherwise the grower would be subject to a moving target approach that would lead to confusion and not be in accord with the 2018 Farm Bill and congressional intent.


 Another issue of concern is the deviation in lab testing. Three different labs will yield three different results for the same product.  We note that setting a firm testing date and certification protocol will prevent the situation of Oregon biomass being inappropriately stopped when transshipped across neighboring states, a situation in direct contravention of the plain meaning of the 2018 Farm Bill and the intent of Congress. When issuing its regulation and reviewing state plans, we request that USDA & AMS keep in mind the business realities of hemp production and the expenses that will result from over regulation. The goal of any regulation should be to make hemp an agricultural commodity treated similarly to any other agricultural commodity. Complicated testing and record keeping requirements will add expense and stifle what is now a promising new agricultural crop. In general, we request that USDA play the role of moving toward a dynamic, profitable and job-creating national agricultural product, taking into account the many uses of hemp for food, fiber and wellness products.  Under the new farm bill program, USDA has the role of approving state plans and establishing a federal plan. As such, USDA can drive national standards for this exciting new opportunity for America’s farmers. Thank you so much.


Some of that went over my head, but clearly the issue of testing is a complicated one and full of mines.  We are clearly a long way from when intrastate transportation of legal hemp is safe.  It won’t be safe until local law enforcement will be able to understand simple uniform regulatory standards and have a convenient and efficient way to test the hemp or have a way to determine if the hemp is from a legal source.

Eric Wendt, the Chief Science Officer for Green Leaf Labs was the next to weigh in on the testing issue.  He brought up some important points.

“We are an accredited and licensed cannabis and hemp testing laboratory located in Portland, Oregon.   We have been working with the Department of Agriculture and performing in-field clients testing as well as finished product testing as required by the Department of Agriculture.  One of the biggest points of confusion that we’ve seen here in Oregon is the discrepancy between the amount of Delta 9 THC versus the total THC found in both plant material as well as finished product. The total THC calculation assumes a complete transfer of THC A into Delta 9.  THC A is what the plant produces in the field, whereas Delta 9 is generally a degradation byproduct produced in low concentrations in the plant.

One of the difficulties with this is that while the plant in the field may have low and legal levels of Delta 9, the total amount of THC that the plants producing could be significantly greater. Upwards of 30% of the legal cannabis in Oregon would have the potential to be classified as hemp under the only Delta 9 rule as currently incorporated. One of the main issues with that is that as storage and transport of hemp begins to occur, the degradation of THC A into Delta 9 would result in a legal product leaving the state, and by the time it arrives at a destination it could be illegal as a result of this degradation process. And additionally, the plant material is processed in an effort to concentrate and isolate CBD; you generally also concentrate any THC present. While it’s possible to remove the THC from the finished material, it’s an expensive process. So you likely will end up with concentrates or extract material that is significantly above the legal limit of .3%


Additionally, we’ve run into issues regarding the importance of representative sampling of hemp material. And the variability of plants within a field, as well as testing the finished harvested material post-harvest. Also, we’d like to emphasize the importance of standardized methodology for hemp testing both equipment, the extraction sample preparation process, the procedures and the instrument calibration. A number of speakers have talked this morning about the discrepancies from lab to lab, and I believe that implementing a universal consistent methodology to require the testing would greatly reduce that variability we’re seeing.”


Again, more information, if you can decipher, if the legal issues present when you try testing samples.  At this point it seems to me that the testing issue is and will continue to be a legal quagmire. 


Ben Fenner Fredericks of Peebles & Morgan brings up the issue of the 2014 licensing procedure and how that is affected by the new bill:


Just as a general overview, because my comment is somewhat broad as the law stands today there are three definitions for the plant cannabis: one for marijuana under the CSA and two of which are definitions for hemp. First, being industrial hemp under the Ag Act of 2014 and the second being hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill.


Now, although the 2018 Farm Bill indicates that the industrial hemp pilot research program is to be repealed one year after the date on which the Secretary of Agriculture establishes a plan to implement the 2018 Farm Bill, in a very broad sense how does the USDA intend to guide states in the transition from industrial hemp to hemp?


On a much more narrower sense and kind of subsumed within my question, does USDA intend on providing guidance on how local authorities and even local law enforcement can verify if interstate shipments of hemp under the new program is hemp and not marijuana?


I think it’s worth noting that some states are already in the process of making the necessary changes in their legislation to go from industrial hemp under the pilot research program, to hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, but we really see this more in those states that we’re in the early processes of establishing pilot research programs.


Most states are currently waiting for guidance from USDA, especially in those states that have established research programs with dozens, if not hundreds of licensees.  In some, given the protections under which the industrial hemp pilot programs will inevitably be repealed, it has become the duty of the USDA to establish a plan to help transition states from their current programs to the future plan that’s to be established, including guidance towards interstate commerce on the different definitions and qualities of marijuana and hemp, as well as the potential for organic certification and guidance as to what the options are for states with current licensees under the old program, such as the potential for grandfathering in those licenses.”

More important points on the issue of legal hemp.

Dr. Cebert from Alabama (I have no more information about him) makes an important point.

“And also one that’s been addressed many times that 0.3% level. This is something that definitely we have to revisit because that number is simply used as a default. No one truly knows where it came from. It came from the Europeans when they first began to set up their own industrial hemp program. So a lot of people are going to get penalized unfairly with that level”

He seems to imply that there may be some legal wiggle room with the .3%.  However, again, I am ignorant as to the intricacies of what is clearly a very important issue.

Next was Steve Bevan, President of GenCanna Global in Winchester, Kentucky.  It sounds like his company has produced a pot of gold.

‘We have been a participant in Kentucky’s hemp pilot programs with KDA since 2014. We are an example of the success of the program. We’re now growing rapidly, have five facilities and employ 200 people in rural communities. We’re aiming to grow over 10,000 acres with our family farming partners in Kentucky in 2019.  We champion American hemp genetics and recently announced 0.0% THC patentable hemp with our partners at the University of Kentucky. We also count family farming partners in New York, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee and other states to come. We believe that hemp is food – treating hemp like any other proper food product.”


The main take away here is the 0.0% THC patentable hemp.  If they do patent that hemp it seems to be that they are going to be well positioned in this game, and that their hemp will be the hemp to have because it will test zero avoiding all sorts of testing issues.


The second to last speaker I found with relevant information was Julie Doran of Meigs Fertilizer.


“I manufacture fertilizer for cannabis. I’m in Ohio, so we don’t have legislation on hemp. I’m actually going to speak at a senate meeting this afternoon. So I’m just going to run through this list, real quick. I started with two questions, but I’ve got quite a bit more:


One issue is what do we do with the plants above the .3% THC?  Are we going to be laying out groundwork with that? I think that we should not be wasting or burning these plants. I think that we should go up to a minimal maybe 2% THC and use it as an alternate end-use product, not for human or animal consumption, but we should still be able to use some type of that plant.


My other issue is license fees and the affordability. I don’t know if these are going to be yearly license fees or if they’re going to be good for, you know, three to five years.  I just want to make sure that everyone tries to keep it on an even playing ground through different states. Some states are charging up to $1,000 or over. Most states that I see around are charging around $250 per year. I think we should try to have a level field with the license fees to make it even and fair throughout the US.”

Her statements on THC percentages are self-explanatory.  The other issue of licensing, her questions assume that people are already growing hemp under state licenses in many states.  Again this seems to imply that many states are allowing commercial utilization of hemp even though the federal government has not allowed it.  Whether this hemp from the 2014 USDA licensing program I am unsure.

She goes on to state:

“I strongly believe in the next year or two, we are going to be declassifying and taking marijuana off of the Controlled Substance list.  So we need to what is going to happen to the hemp program after that? What about this .3% THC. No one really does know where that .3% THC came from.  There really (before it was illegal in the 30’s) wasn’t a difference between marijuana and hemp. It was all just considered cannabis. So I don’t know where that separation came from. And that’s a very low percent to try to hold these farmers to in such a new industry. There are so many new strains and seeds and breeding out there and we need to encourage that to try to improve the breeding program of the hemp seeds. 


So we need to be open to that and see, you know, what we’re going to do with that.  The decarboxylation before testing…when you decarboxylate something the THC percent does move within the plant.  Other things that can stress the plant out, such as heat or water stress, any type of stress can make that THC percent fluctuate. I believe we should be just testing the dried flower post, or during, harvest.  You know, if you’re in the middle of, you know, August or something and it’s really hot and dry that THC percent could fluctuate from .2 to .5 or even bearing over that.

So I believe we need a common place where the US and all states are testing the flower, in the same way”

Again, she summarizes many speakers feeling about the hemp percentage and shows where the debate and regulations are currently at.

That the last speaker who I think had something relevant to say was Garrett Chojnacki

 “I am a hemp advisor in California. I’m also a hemp production formulator, so I formulate products that help hemp products get to market.  I represent 40 California farmers and a few people in the state of Oregon as well.  Are we just testing flower or are we going to also include the rest of the biomass? For the .3 percent.  Big issue.  Everyone thinks it is arbitrary.


It also sounds like what you’re saying is that you’re not going to really have anything in place before the 2020 crop year. So it would be appropriate, we think, if you could issue some guidance laying out the groundwork for what will happen if producers try to grow hemp in 2019.


In addition, it is my hope today to encourage the USDA to look into difficulties that a farmer might face if he or she is in a southern portion of the United States. So what we know about Type 3 phenotypes (which is the hemp variety), we know that the specific phenotype prefers a geographical position north of latitude 30. However, the closer we move to 30 degrees of latitude position, we actually have difficulty keeping the plant suppressed under .3% of THC.  So my concern is how is the USDA going to administer their guidelines for farmers in the testing protocols? So my major concern is.  Are we just testing flower or are we going to also include the rest of the biomass?


I believe if we include stock, stem, sticks that would be a more beneficial and better sample of our test. If we are going to concentrate by just using flower or just using tissue vegetation, I believe that we’re actually concentrating that test sample. So currently, I work with a team of biochemists and we’ve discovered a root drench that actually suppresses THC production within the plant. Not all farmers have access to formulations like these, yet this brings some concern for the majority of the population that desires to grow hemp as a cash crop. So today, I ask the USDA that they continue their path of due diligence for the farmer’s sake and for the economic benefit of our country.


The USDA and any other agency that they would like to look into this in a more in-depth position at suppressing THC in the plant, I would be honored to elaborate and can be reached on my website spenceragconsulting com.”

The issue of the .3% comes up again and again.  There seems to be significant questions as to whether this is a good measurement to use, and if it, there seems to be a ton of issues of when and how you can test for such amount to make the regulations consistent.  Unfortunately none of these issues at this date seem to have been worked out.

Well that is my summary.  I hope this has been helpful to some of you.  Please send me back any thoughts or opinions you have on this issue.

Mark Herrick