Arbitrary THC Limits in Hemp Hinder Research and Development
In 2014 the United States passed a new farm bill. The bill allowed US states to adopt rules enabling them to launch Pilot Programs authorizing the farming of hemp for research purposes. The only real rule was that the plants had to contain a total of <.3% delta-9 THC. Many states including Oregon, Colorado and Kentucky opted to set up these pilot programs and served as templates for the hemp industry boom that was coming. This program made it very easy for farms and companies to grow different strains,do breeding and manufacture unique products.
But there was a loophole, and to understand this loophole, you must first understand the compounds found in the hemp plant. Particularly the difference between THCa and Delta-9 THC. In its raw form, meaning unprocessed flower THCa and CBDa are the dominant cannabinoids, these compounds have an acid molecule attached to them that changes the therapeutic properties of them. THCa has no psychoactive properties for instance while Delta-9 THC is the cannabinoid that gets you stoned. During the smoking or heating process THCa is converted to Delta-9 THC.
The 2014 Farm Bill only regulated Delta-9 THC, so theoretically you could have flower that were 1% THCa and still be compliant as hemp, because the Delta-9 THC was still below .3%, at least until smoked. Most serious companies were doing their best to breed cultivars that were below .3%THCa, but most if not all of the genetics available even now come in at around .4%-.5% THCa. This is still a very small amount, and I can guarantee that 95% of all CBD products available on the market right now are made with flower containing these percentages of THCa. By the time it is processed into products the final formulation is usually reduced to below .1% THCa, by that time converted into delta-9 THC, because the infusion processes causes varying amounts of dilution.
Now jump forward to 2018, CBD products are experiencing a surge in the market. Everywhere you look, retail shops of all kinds were selling CBD products of some sort. From tinctures, edibles, body products, literally if you can think of putting CBD in it, it’s been done. With all the attention and the progress that has been made since 2014, demands for the Federal Government to fully legalize hemp production had mounted sky high. Senators who five years ago would never have dreamed of supporting pro-cannabis legislation were now heading up efforts to legalize “Industrial Hemp”. They probably didn’t realize Hemp Based products would only serve to further de-stigmatize cannabis in general. Which is great! But with the new law being written these legislators decided to add language that would alter the way hemp programs regulated THCa and Delta-9. They really blew it here in my opinion. The <.3% THC limit was always a made up and arbitrary limit. There was never any real research conducted that looked at what the maximum amount would be that could cause psychoactive effects. They should have taken a look at the genetics that were currently available and being used in market, and set the limit a little higher. Numbers closer to .5% THCa would have made more since. In Europe the number ranges from .2%-1% and the countries will the 1% rule have been on the forefront of hemp breeding to date. The US was starting to lead the pack under the 2014 Farm Bill, but as the 2020 growing season takes effect, the USDA has released its new rules and it limits THCa or “total THC” at .3%. This means that many if not most farm’s genetic stock is now either useless, or they will to forced to harvest pre-maturely which will decrease value and make them less medicinally efficacious.
We here at Seventh Hill have been farming hemp for three years now, and I very rarely see cultivars that come in below .3%, while also taking the plants full term. We will be forced to harvest early to keep THC levels down. Breeding programs that have so far been the source of the genetic diversity we now see, will be put on hold, because if you have a plant that even goes slightly over .3% you will be at risk of criminal prosecution for growing “cannabis”, if you don’t destroy it. Anything over .5% and it won’t matter if you destroy it, you can be charged. This is bound to happen because when making seeds you get a genetic pool that is very diverse and you. So tell me how a farm is supposed to operate when you can’t even grow the plants currently available. It makes no sense.
These new USDA rules are going to severely hinder the US hemp industries ability to innovate in this new space. It will put small family run farms and companies at a disadvantage, while giving Big-Ag the ability to come in, use GMO plant patents to through legal means to perform a hostile takeover of our industry. They have done this before with other agricultural industries and rest assured they have plans to do the same here. Only through petitioning our leaders, speaking out, and educating consumers who rely on honest and passionate companies for relief through CBD and cannabis in general. Because don’t forget full on Federal cannabis legalization is just down the road. Whatever we allow them to get away with here, they will do the same to cannabis. We must act now to support small family farms, Craft CBD product manufacturers, and those who are in this business not just because they want in on a burgeoning industry,but because they have a true passion for this plant. We must advocate for the most open and free rules that allow all to benefit from everything it has to offer. We must demand regulations that assure product safety and testing. Things like the use of pesticide, cheap and dangerous ingredients and overreaching health claims are serious issues that we must regulate. But leave the plant alone, we don’t need arbitrary limits set on cannabinoids, or limits on which products you can put CBD into. Hemp needs to be in more places not less!