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USDA delays federal oversight of labs testing for THC

Hemp Industry News
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Federal agriculture officials in the USA are delaying a rule that all THC testing on U.S. hemp crops must be performed at laboratories registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the delay in a recent “enforcement discretion notice.” 

DEA oversight was included as a requirement in “interim final rules” (IFR) for domestic hemp production released Oct. 31, 2019. But USDA, in its recent notice, wrote “We are delaying enforcement of these requirements based on comment received in response to the IFR and in discussions with states and tribes as they pursue USDA-approval of their plans,” USDA wrote in the notice.  

‘We have learned’

“Through these conversations, we have learned that these provisions will serve as a significant hindrance to the growth of a domestic hemp market at this nascent stage,” USDA wrote in the notice.

For instance, the USDA said it now has a better understanding of how the limited number of DEA-registered labs will hinder testing, creating value chain bottlenecks, a frequent concern of stakeholders who commented on the overall IFR after its release last October.

The USDA reported it received more than 4,700 comments about its interim hemp rules since they were released, many of which took issue with the DEA testing requirement.

Opening up labs

In practice, the delay means stakeholders may use state and local laboratories for THC testing through October 2021 or until any final rules are adopted before that date. 

Fewer than 50 laboratories are currently DEA-registered and some U.S. states have no labs at all, meaning stakeholders would have faced costly, time-consuming shipments out of state to get their crops tested. 

Disposal rule also delayed

The USDA is also delaying the requirement that licensed hemp farmers use a DEA-registered reverse distributor or law enforcement to dispose of plants that exhibit more than 0.3% THC. That change is also valid until October 2021.

USDA said it will conduct random audits of licensees to verify that hemp is being produced in accordance with other provisions of the interim rule.


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