How to stay compliant in the hemp industry

By April 3, 2020 May 11th, 2020 No Comments

Compliance with the various regulations relating to hemp production is one of the highest priorities for any hemp grower. So, the first order of business for all hemp growers should be to understand the laws and regulations where their farms are located. These are typically made available through the permit application process administered by the State or local government, or, for hemp farms in states without their own hemp programs, through USDA (farms in states without their own hemp programs must apply for a USDA permit instead).

It doesn’t take an attorney to decipher the regulations; the instructions set forth in the permit application should be clear enough for any grower to follow. Nevertheless, it pays to keep a few key points in mind:

  1. THC levels: Hemp crops are subject to pre-harvest testing to ensure they don’t exceed maximum levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Some jurisdictions may require post-harvest testing as well. Hemp is defined under Federal law as cannabis containing not more than 0.3% delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), but States and the USDA have varying interpretations regarding the types of THC subject to testing for purposes of crop compliance. Some states test only for Δ9-THC, while others test for “Total THC” using a formula that combines Δ9-THC with THCA (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that partially converts to delta9-THC when the hemp is decarboxylated, such as by smoking or cooking it).

  2. Compliant varieties: Some States maintain lists of varieties approved for planting or require pre-clearance of new varieties to establish that they can be grown to maturity without exceeding maximum THC levels. Any variety of hemp can be grown to maturity without exceeding these levels, but no variety can be guaranteed to (and stay away from any seed or clone seller who claims otherwise). So, if the varieties you want to plant aren’t found on the State’s list, contact the regulator and ask for your preferred varieties to be added. They will likely request lab reports and other documentation to make their determination, which your seed or young-plant seller should be able to provide. Cultivaris maintains complete documentation for all the varieties we sell and can provide it to regulators upon request without delay. In many cases, regulators can approve a new variety within a day or two.

  3. THC testing methods and testing window: States and USDA have varying requirements for testing methods to be used, and for accrediting labs authorized to conduct such tests. Requirements also vary concerning the maximum number of days allowed between pre-harvest testing and harvest: 15-, 28- and 30-day testing windows are most common. Follow the instructions provided by your State’s hemp program for identifying labs and obtaining test results, and review (or simply ask the regulator) what allowances, if any, may be made available to farms that cannot meet the testing window due to weather or operational constraints.

  4. Test early and often, and budget accordingly: Obtain test results for each variety in your crop starting 4-6 weeks after flowering begins, and thereafter as necessary according to your harvest capacity and state’s testing window: estimate the greatest number of days it will take you to harvest the lot being tested, subtract that number from the testing window in your state, and use the result as your testing interval for the lot. For example, if your state has a 28-day testing window and it takes you a maximum of 10 days to harvest a lot, test it no more than every 18 days. That way, when you first get a lab report that is over your state’s THC limit, you have 18 days from the previous (compliant) lab report to complete harvesting the lot.

  5. Help the regulator help you – ask, collaborate, advocate: With regulators and growers all learning how to properly grow hemp, policies and procedures are still evolving. Good communication between producers and regulators is essential, not only to protect the farmers interests, but also to deliver feedback to the regulator on what procedures may need clarification, improvement or revision. Not sure what to do about a compliance issue? Just ask the regulator. Is the regulator not sure what to do about your compliance issue? Collaborate with them to develop a solution; they need help from farmers to get things right. Think their approach is unfair or unworkable? Advocate for your interests – we can help; there is no hotter topic in US agriculture at this point than hemp, and your advocacy now may save the industry (and the regulator) a great deal of pain and confusion

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