Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) reintroduced a bill that would more than triple the federal THC limit for hemp to one percent, among other measures aimed at helping hemp industry farmers deal with federal regulations.
Hemp was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) then swiftly moving to develop industry rules and regulations for the hemp industry. Industry stakeholders, however, still have complaints about provisions of the law. The most serious complaint is that the federally defined threshold of legal hemp as containing no more than 0.3 percent THC is too low.
The USDA released its final proposed hemp rules in January, which included a higher THC limit of one percent but Rand’s bill, the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan (HEMP), would codify this increased limit into law rather than leaving it at the discretion of agency policy.
“For years, I’ve led the fight in Washington to restore one of Kentucky’s most historically vital crops by legalizing industrial hemp,” Paul said via press release. “We achieved a hard-won victory, but there is still work to do to prevent the federal government from weighing down our farmers with unnecessary bureaucratic micromanaging. My legislation will help this growing industry reach its full economic potential, and I am proud the bill has strong support all the way from local Kentucky farmers and activists to national groups.”
Aside from raising the THC limit, the measure would change THC testing requirements so the product derived from hemp is tested rather than the plant itself. Currently, the USDA proposes requiring hemp processors to test the hemp flower for its THC concentration within 15 days of harvest. Hemp processors complain this takes up a lot of time and resources, while the plant’s ultimate THC concentration is largely determined by factors outwith their control. As a compromise, Rand’s HEMP bill would stipulate that hemp products are tested for THC rather than the crop itself.
“The THC content of hemp plants is significantly impacted by environmental factors, which farmers cannot control,” reads a summary of the bill. “Alternatively, hemp processors have greater control over the THC content in their products. Providing a statutory fix to this problem, by testing the final hemp-derived product rather than the hemp flower or plant itself, would ease the burden on farmers.
The bill contains further provisions aimed at curbing seizures of hemp in transit by police officers who suspect the crop to be marijuana by setting out hemp transporter documentation requirements to prove the legality of the shipment. Now, instead of the USDA’s proposal that drivers provide a lab certificate attesting their cargo contains no more than one percent THC, they can simply show a copy of the hemp farmer’s license.
Rand’s HEMP bill has one further provision that lays out the margin of error regarding THC tests. Currently, determining this falls under the purview of the Drug Enforcement Agency, but the Kentucky senator proposes “using 0.075 percent as the standard MU, giving farmers and processors the certainty they have requested.”