Chart: 20% of hemp lots will exceed 0.3% THC limit next year, USDA estimates

In 2020, one in five lots of hemp will need to be destroyed because the plants exceed the legal THC limit, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These USDA estimates are some of the figures outlined in Hemp Industry Daily’s new special report, “USDA Hemp Rules: A Handbook for Hemp & CBD Businesses,” which was released this week.

The free report outlines the contents of the USDA’s interim final rules regarding the establishment of a domestic hemp production program, which the agency released Oct. 31.

Within the report, the USDA estimates that 20% of hemp lots sent in for testing will test “hot,” or above the legal threshold of 0.3% THC content.

The USDA concedes that it isn’t possible to know in advance how much hemp will fail to meet the legal THC threshold.

But the agency said it arrived at this estimate “based on information discussions with states that have a hemp program under the 2014 Farm Bill.”

An upside to the agency’s new rules is that producers won’t be considered in negligent violation of the federal rules unless their hemp tests above 0.5% THC.

This means the producers would not be prosecuted for a federal crime if their hemp tested within the range of 0.3% to 0.5%.

However, all failing hemp must be destroyed and can’t be used in any way – even in states that allow both marijuana and hemp production.

Because cannabis grown as marijuana must be traced through a state’s seed-to-sale tracking system, producers will not be able to shift “hot” hemp to the marijuana channel.

Hemp farmers and industry advocates have expressed unease over the new testing rules, especially the requirement that only labs registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would be qualified to test the THC levels of hemp.

Some are worried this requirement will create bottlenecks in the hemp supply chain, particularly in rural or remote areas.

Others have expressed concern that the DEA will be heavily involved in monitoring the hemp industry, particularly now that a law has been passed to promote legal hemp production.

Hemp Industry Daily’s new special report, “USDA Hemp Rules: A Handbook for Hemp & CBD Businesses,” is available as a free download here.

Maggie Cowee can be reached at