U.S. trade group cries foul over proposed strict limits on THC in extracts

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A proposed provision in landmark U.S. cannabis legislation under consideration would set an unnecessarily low level for trace amounts of THC in hemp flower-based food products, leading to “the elimination of the substantial majority of the hemp extract and CBD industry,” a trade group has warned.

In a letter sent to main sponsors of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), filed in the Senate last month, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable (USHR), a Kentucky-based trade association, criticized the THC provision in the bill, which sets a limit of 1 milligram of total THC per 100 grams on a dry weight basis, translating into a 0.001% total THC standard.

The CAOA, considered to be the most comprehensive among several cannabis bills currently floating around in the U.S. Congress, is not expected to become law any time soon, but serves as a center of gravity for the discussion of marijuana and hemp policy.

Scope of the CAOA

The bill would recognize the legalization of cannabis by the states and decriminalize, regulate, and tax businesses, offering provisions related to justice, immigration, and enforcement; small business administration; public health; education infrastructure; labor; veterans; banking, housing; and community development.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would regulate cannabis products through a new Center for Cannabis Products, under provisions in the proposed law. 

“This is an arbitrary and unrealistic standard,” USHR said of the THC limit proposed for hemp-based products. “No full spectrum or broad-spectrum hemp extract would qualify, and likely most CBD isolates would be challenged to comply, given the limitations of current testing technology.

“Indeed, this limit would delegate most, if not all, popular, non-intoxicating CBD and hemp extract products to the adult-use cannabis market,” the group said, urging the bill’s sponsors to reconsider what it called “a misguided standard for intoxication” that is “uniquely onerous and unprecedented.”

Delta-8 should be regulated

In the letter, sent to Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the lead sponsors of the CAOA, USHR called for expanded protections for all non-intoxicating hemp derivatives including CBD and other cannabinoids, legalizing the sale of CBD and other hemp extracts as food and beverage ingredients, and loosening up on who may conduct safety evaluations.

Despite its vigorous defense of CBD, USHR said it supports the CAOA’s effort to regulate psychoactive cannabis products, like delta-8 THC, which is derived from hemp-based CBD. Separate regulatory pathways for non-intoxicating hemp and intoxicating cannabis products should be established, USHR recommended.

The CAOA should be changed to establish a more comprehensive rulemaking process for determining daily serving limits for CBD that invites stakeholder input, USHR also urged.

Task force proposed

In addition to the allowable THC levels for consumer products, USHR said other provisions in current CAOA language could undermine the industry, and urged creation of a task force to also set regulations for daily serving limits for CBD, consider the advisability of the current delta-9 THC limit for hemp plants of 0.3%, and address other potentially intoxicating hemp derivatives.

The task force would include representatives from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health, hemp growers, manufacturers, processors and distributors, and testing laboratories. 

The group would report findings and offer recommendations within 120 days after being formed, USHR recommended. FDA and other federal agencies would then have 90 days to start the rule-making process to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Reforms move slowly

Observers have said only incremental reform on cannabis is expected in the near future, especially if the Democrats lose the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. Problems with banking, for example, could be resolved with separate legislation, the SAFE Banking Act, which would finally permit financial institutions to service cannabis companies without fear of reprisal.

While CAOA’s sponsors have said they will not support the SAFE Banking Act in the absence of broader criminal reforms, policy that provides basic financial services for cannabis operators enjoys bi-partisan support in Congress.

About USHR

The U.S. Hemp Roundable is led by Pete Meachum, president, a lobbyist who also serves as Senior Director for Government Affairs for the Cronos Group, Ontario, Canada. The following businesses and organizations are on the USHR board, according to the group’s website: Ananda Hemp (Kentucky), Balanced Health Botanicals (Colorado), Canopy Growth Corporation (Ontario, Canada), CBD American Shaman (Kansas), Cultivated CBD (Minnesota), Curaleaf (Massachusetts), Garden of Life (Florida), GVB Biopharma (Nevada), Hemp Industries Association, Just Brands (Holland), Koi CBD LLC (California), Medterra CBD (California), Recess (New York), Red Mesa Science & Refining (Utah), SC Labs (California), Turning Point Brands (Kentucky), U.S. Hemp Authority, Verge Agritech (United Kingdom), and Zilis (Texas).

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