In Review: Hemp Webinar Offers Insights About 2020 Interim Rules

By William Sumner, Hemp Content Manager, New Frontier Data

With spring well underway, if despite the pandemic’s logistical challenges, planting season for the hemp industry has begun. For many, it will be the first time to grow their crops under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim hemp rules for 2020. Though the rules have been publicly available since October 2019, many hemp operators remain uncertain about the new guidance from federal regulators.

Aiming to provide clarity, New Frontier Data presented one of its free webinars, the latest being Navigating the USDA’s Hemp Rules. Led by New Frontier Data’s Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) John Kagia, the event included two outside experts equipped with both practical and theoretical knowledge of the USDA’s regulations.

Rod Kight is an attorney and journalist best known for his popular blog, “Kight on Cannabis”. A former professional cyclist, Jake Sitler is  the director of business for a leading CBD brand, Floyd’s of Leadville.

As Kight described, this growing season will be historically unique as cultivators across the U.S. will respectively be growing under various sets of rules. “We going to have a hybrid year,” he said. “We have farmers growing under the 2014 Farm Bill Pilot program, and farmers growing under the 2018 Farm Bill, some under their own plans, and some directly under the USDA.”

Currently, 16 U.S. states have USDA-approved hemp plans, 18 states retain rules set under their 2014 pilot programs, and three states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands retain plans under review. Operators with hemp already on the market, along with those operating in state pilot programs, need not worry about being compliant with USDA regulations (though they will by October).

Among the most pressing questions for operators is hemp testing: Under the USDA’s interim rules, cultivators not only have to test their products 15 days prior to harvest, but those tests must include calculations for THCA, the inactive acidic form of THC.

According to Sitler, the new testing standard will hurt small-scale cultivators. “It’s going to become less of a craft, and more of a commodity,” he said. “Big processors are really the only ones who are going to benefit from this: The THC is going to get too hot, too fast in the 15-day period.”

Kight added that, given the limited selection of hemp seed genetics available to farmers, it would be difficult for cultivators to grow high-CBD hemp strains without exceeding the USDA’s strict THC limits.

Kight and Sitler’s entire conversation about the USDA’s interim rules can be found online here.