In a significant shift for the 2020 hemp crop year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reached an agreement that drops the provision in USDA’s Interim Hemp Rule that required hemp growers to test the THC levels of their crops at a DEA-certified laboratory. The requirement was one of a few major points of contention for the hemp industry in the Interim Hemp Rule as there were fewer than 50 such laboratories in the United States, and growers were required to sample and harvest their crops in a tight, 15-day window. Without the requirement to have the hemp tested at a DEA-certified laboratory, growers will now be able to use state and local labs as they have done for previous crop years. States that already have their hemp plans approved by USDA often have requirements that the labs are approved by a state agricultural agency, so some hurdles may still remain for laboratories who wish to begin testing hemp crops for THC content, but this is overall a boost for the hemp industry going into the 2020 growing season.
USDA received thousands of comments about its Interim Hemp Rule, and certain provisions are likely to continue to cause difficulties for the industry, such as requiring THC testing to occur post-decarboxylation. Nevertheless, USDA has committed to open another public comment session in the fall of 2020 to gather more input from the industry on the 2020 season. We will continue to monitor the changes in policy at USDA as this growing year progresses.