The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is calling on Congress to increase the THC limit for legal hemp as one of their 2024 policy priorities.
As lawmakers resume work on the next iteration of the Farm Bill, the group representing state agriculture officials in 50 states and four U.S. territories is aligning itself with hemp industry stakeholders, urging Congress to more than triple the THC threshold for hemp from the current limit of 0.3 percent THC by dry weight to 1 percent.
“Increasing the THC concentration to one percent would enable farmers to plant more seed varieties,” NASDA said in a one-pager describing its 2024 Farm Bill asks. “This action also retains limits on THC concentration while giving farmers greater assurance their crop will be viable.”
It’s one of five key policy areas for the legislation that the association says it will be focusing on this year. NASDA CEO Ted McKinney said in a press release on Monday that members “see urgent need for action in these areas to support farmers and ranchers in their ability to grow our nation’s food, fiber and fuel.”
“Further, we believe these are the areas where state departments of agriculture are uniquely positioned to champion policy solutions this year,” he said.
The 0.3 percent THC limit for hemp that was imposed under the 2018 Farm Bill that federally legalized the crop has long been subject to criticism from stakeholders and lawmakers across the aisle. And one Justice Department researcher recently called into question the rationale for the restriction, suggesting it was arbitrarily decided based on a 1950s-era article that was adopted into federal statute.
NASDA members have chosen five issues to serve as the organization’s primary policy focus for 2024 – the 2024 #FarmBill, #foodsafety, #laborreform, #pesticide regulation and #PFAS. Learn about each issue: https://t.co/WfyIzepTV3 pic.twitter.com/Vec1etgFDC
— NASDA (@NASDAnews) January 22, 2024
Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently outlined how differing policy priorities among industry stakeholders could complicate the task of updating the farm bill’s hemp provisions, but there are several areas of agreement within the top industry groups.
One of those shared interests is amending the law to raise the THC limit to one percent for compliant hemp—a proposal that was also addressed in a standalone bill from Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) in 2022.
It’s unclear if congressional lawmakers will ultimately tackle the Farm Bill this year. The 2018 version was set to expire at the end of last year, but it was extended under a bill President Joe Biden signed.
There have been a number of other hemp bills that were filed this session that lawmakers may also consider folding in to the broader agricultural legislation.
One bipartisan bill filed last March seeks to end what critics say is a “discriminatory” federal policy that bars people with prior felony drug convictions from owning or leading legal hemp businesses.
Another measure introduced with bipartisan sponsors last year would reduce regulations on farmers that grow industrial hemp for non-extraction purposes.
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Top of mind for other hemp stakeholders and legislators is their interest in finding a regulatory pathway to allow for the lawful marketing of hemp products like CBD oil as dietary supplements and in the food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulatory jurisdiction over that issue, but at the beginning of the year, the agency said it didn’t have a pathway to make it happen and instead offered to work with Congress on a solution.
In response, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), filed legislation last July that would remove regulatory barriers that FDA claims prevents it from allowing CBD marketing.
Meanwhile, recent reporting could prompt additional reform proposals, as it’s come to light that USDA has been revoking certain hemp licenses for businesses that dually retain state licenses for marijuana.
For the time being, the hemp industry continues to face unique regulatory hurdles that stakeholders blame for the crop’s value plummeting in the short years since its legalization. Despite the economic conditions, however, a recent report found that the hemp market in 2022 was larger than all state marijuana markets, and it roughly equaled sales for craft beer nationally.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) started sending out thousands of surveys to hemp farmers across the country on Monday to better understand the state of the industry as part of its annual data collection initiative.