Sources: USDA hemp rules drafted and awaiting White House approval

Federal agriculture authorities have submitted hemp rules to the White House for final approval, meaning that public release of the first-ever national rules for growing the crop is nearing, Hemp Industry Daily has learned.

The hemp industry is eagerly – and anxiously – awaiting federal regulations on hemp production from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Those rules have been promised by the 2020 growing season.

According to Washington DC-based cannabis attorney Jonathan Havens and the National Hemp Association, the USDA has completed the rules and submitted them for review to the White House Office of Budget and Management, which reviews all regulations adopted and implemented by a presidential administration.

This means once approved, the USDA regulations will likely be released within a matter of weeks.

“Obviously, this is later than USDA’s August publication goal,” Havens told Hemp Industry Daily.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which spearheaded drafting federal hemp production regulations, said in June the agency would release the federal regulations Aug. 1.

But William Richmond, head of the Specialty Crops Program in the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, said last month the regulations have been delayed in large part because the agency was grappling with the 2018 Farm Bill‘s requirement for a national THC testing protocol “using post-decarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods.”

“While the USDA struggling with this is somewhat understandable, the agency’s delay only exacerbates the state and local law patchwork problem that currently exists,” Havens said.

Earlier this week, USDA Undersecretary Greg Ibach told the National Farmers Union that drawing up hemp rules have been “complicated,” but the agency is “committed to having a rule out” soon.

In remarks reported by IEG Policy, an agribusiness news site, Ibach joked that hemp is “the only thing that anybody really wants to know about when I go anywhere.”

Once released, the USDA regulations will be temporary for the first year, said Geoff Whaling, chair of the National Hemp Association.

“(This will) allow the states to not only participate for the 2020 grow season (and) allow all stakeholders the opportunity to begin to implement the regulations and identify areas that may need small fixes,” Whaling wrote in an email to Hemp Industry Daily.

“This is a sound process, for if the USDA issued permanent regulations, they will be much more difficult to amend or fix without a lengthy process.”

The Farm Bill calls for federal authorities to allow states to set their own rules for hemp production, as long as certain criteria are met.

But the states will have to get USDA approval first, a step that won’t happen until after the national guidelines are released.

Laura Drotleff can be reached at [email protected]

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