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High anxiety: Proposed US hemp rules worry industry

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Concern raised of heavy-handed regulations, failed crop tests

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Hemp growers and entrepreneurs who were joyous a year ago after U.S. lawmakers reclassified the plant as a legal agricultural crop now are worried their businesses could be crippled if federal policymakers move ahead with draft regulations.

Licenses for hemp cultivation topped a half-million acres last year, more than 450% above 2018 levels, so there's intense interest in the rules the U.S. government is creating. Critical comments on the draft have poured in from hemp farmers, processors, retailers and state governments.

Growers are concerned the government wants to use a heavy hand that could result in many crops failing required tests and being destroyed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency writing the rules, estimates 20% of hemp lots would fail under the proposed regulations.

“Their business is to support farmers — and not punish farmers — and the rules as they're written right now punish farmers,” said Dove Oldham, who last year grew an acre of hemp on her family farm in Grants Pass. “There's just a lot of confusion, and people are just looking for leadership.”

The USDA did not respond to the criticism but has taken the unusual step of extending the public comment period by a month, until Jan. 29. The agency told The Associated Press it will analyze information from this year's growing season before releasing its final rules, which would take effect in 2021.

Agricultural officials in states that run pilot hemp cultivation programs under an earlier federal provision are weighing in with formal letters to the USDA.

“There are 46 states where hemp is legal, and I’m going to say that every single state has raised concerns to us about something within the rule. They might be coming from different perspectives, but every state has raised concerns,” said Aline DeLucia, director of public policy for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Most of the anxiety involves how the federal government plans to test for THC, the high-inducing compound found in marijuana and hemp, both cannabis plants. The federal government and most states consider plants with tiny amounts — 0.3% or less — to be hemp. Anything above that is marijuana and illegal under federal law.

Yet another cannabis compound has fueled the explosion in hemp cultivation. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is marketed as a health and wellness aid and infused in everything from food and drinks to lotions, toothpaste and pet treats.

Many have credited CBD with helping ease pain, increase sleep and reduce anxiety. But scientists caution not enough is known about its health effects, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year targeted nearly two dozen companies for making CBD health claims.

Still, the CBD market is increasing at a triple-digit rate and could have $20 billion in sales by 2024, according to a recent study by BDS Analytics, a marketing analysis firm that tracks cannabis industry trends.

Read more of AP's story at: https://www.opb.org/news/article/hemp-growers-usda-rules-proposals-oregon/

Oregon-Northwest / Top Stories

The Associated Press

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2 Comments

  1. “Their business is to support farmers — and not punish farmers — and the rules as they’re written right now punish farmers,” said Dove Oldham

    Ms. Oldham seems to be getting a dose of what government really is. Command and control. There is no desire for government to help. only expand its power. As far as hemp goes? Grow it all over. Let the people decide. Who picked .3% anyway? Why not .4% or .2%???

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