Members of Congress recently approved several spending bills that address cannabis-related issues. One of these spending bills, which was approved on June 30, covers funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This bill and the attached report includes several provisions on hemp and hemp derivatives, like CBD.
Here are three of the most noteworthy concerns that the House Appropriations Committee mentions in the report.
The delta-9 THC threshold may be ‘arbitrary’
According to a recent article in Marijuana Moment, the report took issue with the 0.3% legal THC threshold. This threshold was set by the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and defined it as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC.
“The Committee is concerned that the level of allowable THC content in hemp may be arbitrary and pose a burden on hemp producers that is not supported by science,” states the report.
To remedy this issue, the report tells the USDA to work with other government agencies to study that threshold and determine if science supports it.
“The Committee directs the USDA to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to study and report to Congress on whether there is scientific basis for the current limit of .3% THC in hemp and suggest alternative levels if necessary,” it states.
Drug felony ban disproportionately affects people of color
The report addressed another provision of the 2018 Farm Bill as well. This provision prohibits people who have felony drug convictions on their record from participating in the hemp market for a decade after the date of conviction. The report considers this provision an issue even though it allows an exception for those working in a hemp pilot program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
According to Marijuana Moment, the report emphasized the fact that this restriction disproportionately affects people of color because the war on drugs disproportionately affects people of color.
“This drug felony ban will disproportionately impact communities of color and create another barrier to entry in the hemp industry to populations targeted by past drug policies,” the report says. “The Committee directs USDA to identify barriers to entry for communities of color and provide recommendations on how to ensure communities of color have equal access and opportunity to participate in the hemp industry.”
The hemp extraction process should not put businesses at risk
A third hemp-related concern raised in the report involves the hemp extraction process. The legal definition of hemp requires it to contain no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC. However, the delta-9 THC levels could increase temporarily during the extraction process. Businesses that process hemp have reportedly expressed concern about the legal risk this could expose them to during the extraction process.
The report reflects this concern. It points out that USDA and DEA hemp regulations conflict, and it instructs the USDA to work with the DEA to provide these hemp businesses with guidance. It also clarified that the USDA has primary regulatory authority over this issue and directed the DEA to match its regulations with the USDA ones.
“The Committee is concerned about the inconsistencies in the regulation of the production of hemp by USDA and DEA. Congress vested primary regulatory authority in USDA and expects other regularity actions to align with it,” the report states.
It also adds, “Congress intentionally expanded the definition of hemp to include derivatives, extracts and cannabinoids in an effort to avoid the criminalization of hemp processing. Committee understands that in-process hemp extract may temporarily exceed the delta-9 THC concentration of 0.3% before being packaged and sold as finished product for consumption. Therefore the Committee directs USDA to coordinate directly with the DEA to present the industry with guidance and information on in-process extracted material.”
Any government acknowledgement of these three hemp-industry issues can be a step in the right direction. However, it may be especially valuable that these issues were addressed in this spending bill because this bill affects the budget of the USDA and FDA and it is more likely that these agencies will find and implement effective remedies when they have dedicated funds for these projects.