Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for a series of changes to the draft of the hemp regulations that the department released last month.
The senators said they appreciate that the USDA issued the proposed regulations, which is a “necessary step to establish a domestic federal hemp production program.” They, however, wanted to highlight “several concerns about the unintended and potentially harmful effects this interim final rule would have on hemp production in Oregon and across the country.”
In the letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, they listed five concerns with the regulations and suggested potential fixes. Many of the concerns echoed those that stakeholders have submitted to USDA as part of a public comment period the department launched on October 31.
Here’s what the senators highlighted:
- As written, the draft rules call for hemp to be tested within 15 days before harvest. The senators said it presents an “impossible obstacle for growers to overcome.” Oregon regulations require testing within 28 days, so they said USDA should adopt a similar timeline.
- USDA said that testing must be completed at a laboratory registered with the DEA. The senators said that will produce a bottleneck and delays for hemp producers, and that independent laboratories such as those operating in Oregon should be allowed to conduct the tests.
- The senators said that USDA should allow for forms of THC concentration testing that do not involve post-decarboxylation and also argued that the congressional intent of hemp legalization was not to require testing of all THC compounds but rather just delta-9 THC in particular.
- USDA requires that testing samples come from the top one-third of the hemp flower portion of the plant. The senators said samples should follow established protocols in states like Oregon, which specifies that samples should be taken from the flowering tops when they’re present and be eight inches long.
- While the Farm Bill defines hemp as cannabis containing no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, USDA gave a slight margin of error and considers any plants with more than 0.5 percent THC to be in violation of the regulations. Farmers have called that limitation arbitrary and the senators said it would be more reasonable to set the negligence threshold at 1 percent if there must be a THC restriction at all.