WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced interim rules regarding hemp production, reports Bloomberg. The regulations establish testing protocols to distinguish legal hemp from federally controlled marijuana. They also provide legal protection for the interstate transportation of hemp, and make hemp producers eligible for federal programs, including loans and insurance coverage.
“We are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The interim rules are a “really important first step” for growers, said Beau Whitney, an economist at Whitney Economics, which tracks the cannabis industry. “Large players are hesitant on dipping their toe into the industry until some of this regulatory uncertainty is clarified,” he said, adding that small growers have already entered the field.
Some truckers transporting hemp across the country have been arrested because of differences in state testing procedures designed to distinguish hemp from marijuana, but the new rules should eliminate that problem, Whitney added.
Congress legalized industrial hemp in 2018, and in its first year of widespread commercial cultivation, hemp planting quadrupled as growers sought a profitable alternative to crops that are ensnared in the U.S.-China trade dispute. Cannabidiol (CBD), the hemp-derived compound, is a non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient at the center of a nationwide wellness trend, and it’s being added to everything from beauty and pet products to dietary supplements.
Although Congress has approved hemp cultivation, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet cleared CBD for use in food and drinks.