EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 2023 FARM BILL – MARIPOSA TECHNOLOGY
The 2023 Farm Bill is just around the corner. As the season draws in, hemp industry participants and onlookers watch with cautious optimism for the United States Department of Agriculture to make its move on hemp and cannabis matters.
This will be the first big move in cannabis since the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp. It has given the nation an opportunity to experience a world where types of cannabis are legal. Thus, Congress making an informed decision on the hemp industry could either bring the pro-cannabis movement forward, or back to where it came from.
SETBACKS FOR HEMP SHAREHOLDERS
The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry formally commenced its hearing on the Farm Bill update in 2022.
The 2018 Farm Bill brought slight leeway, but it didn’t turn out to be a “golden opportunity” for those who wanted to go into hemp production.
Producers who chose to venture into the industry have remained at a disadvantage in domestic and international markets due to restricting paragraphs in the “pro-hemp” bill. Recognizing this, several panelists expressed expectations for the new Farm Bill to provide clearer distinctions, better policies, and a fair chance for legal cannabis in international and domestic markets.
A GROCERY LIST OF HEMP-FILLED POSSIBILITIES
Some essential areas for improvement brought up by the panelists included:
- Addressing the FDA’s stance on CBD products.
- Raising the allowable THC threshold in hemp products from 0.3 percent to 1 percent.
- Revising bank regulations and easing limitations for hemp companies.
- Removing the cumbersome DEA’s lab testing requirement for hemp.
- Providing a USDA stamp of approval for hemp shipping between U.S. jurisdictions.
TESTING PRODUCTS, NOT PROCESS
Marielle Weintraub, President of the United States Hemp Roundtable, pitched the issue of “in-process hemp.”
Weintraub pointed out that since the DEA issued its interim final regulation, the temporary THC spike during hemp processing has become a hurdle and viable grounds for the DEA’s punitive actions.
According to Weintraub, “In-process hemp should be dealt with in a similar way as kombucha. During the manufacturing of kombucha, the alcohol level can increase but is brought down to levels that allow it to be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage (less than 0.5% ABV) – Why should hemp products be treated differently?”
The president of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable is essentially proposing that THC testing be conducted at the finished product stage instead. Also, if Congress agrees with Jonathan Miller and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), the hemp sector will gladly usher the DEA out of its business next season.
THE INTOXICATING CANNABINOIDS
The Farm Bill completely limiting only delta-9 THC provided a loophole for other intoxicating THC isomers to penetrate the market.
On this matter, Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, urged that the Farm Bill place the THC limit for hemp plants at 1 percent rather than the current 0.3 percent and include all THC isomers in the new threshold.
In his words: “it would be appropriate for the new one percent limit to include not only Delta-9 THC but every other THC isomer that could have an intoxicating effect on consumers… to better reflect the material’s true intoxicating potential.”
Changing the definition of hemp in the Farm Bill to a cannabis crop with one percent or less total THC will also dramatically extend the range of hemp strains farmers can cultivate and the diversity of hemp cultivars researchers can study in their laboratories.
FINANCING AND COMMERCE FOR HEMP BUSINESSES
Another priority legislators seek to address in the 2023 Farm Bill is social equity challenges in the hemp industry.
In February 2022, House Agriculture Chairperson, David Scott, expressed that the upcoming bill should address the barriers small businesses and minority farmers face while entering the cannabis industry.
Marcus Grignon, a tribal spokesperson and executive director of Hempstead Project Heart, stressed the importance of hemp operations being able to interact seamlessly with banks and insurance providers. He stated that allowing this will assist hemp businesses in obtaining the resources needed to establish a healthier industry.
At the hearing, Kate Greenberg, Commissioner Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA), also testified on the 2018 Farm Bill burdens.
Greenberg remarked that the current Farm Bill imposes costly sampling and testing fees on hemp producers through mandated background checks and FSA acreage reporting, which she describes as “duplicative in nature because it is already reported to the USDA through state reporting.”
A POSITIVE VIEW ON THE NEXT FIVE YEARS FOR HEMP
Other matters hoped to be addressed in the 2023 Farm Bill include distinguishing regulations for industrial hemp from floral hemp and getting the FDA’s action on CBD and other cannabinoids.
While these proposals may not address all the adjustments, they represent a step forward in reducing the cumbersome rules for hemp farmers and improving the sector for better results if applied.
Some of the expected changes in the hemp business from the 2023 Farm Bill based on these proposals will include:
- Increased market engagement from other industries
- Better-regulated products for safer consumption
- Newer products for healthy market expansion
- More considerate action for hemp that exceeds the legal THC limit