Committee Blog: Why 1% Total THC Could Open New Doors for the Hemp Industry

Published by NCIA’s Hemp Committee

As we look forward to the 2023 US Farm Bill, there’s a substantial opportunity to modify the regulations around hemp cultivation and usage. Adjusting these regulations can stimulate the growth of the hemp industry while still ensuring consumer safety. The potential of hemp as an agricultural product is vast, with applications including food, fuel, fiber, building materials, grain, and medical use. It’s important to note that while cannabinoids often dominate the headlines, they make up only a small slice of the industry’s potential size.

Experts predict that incorporating hemp into cosmetics, construction materials, and textiles could catapult the industry to over $1 trillion in annual sales. However, the current regulations pose significant challenges to this innovative industry’s expansion, especially for conscientious farmers. The fear of having their crops destroyed because of slightly exceeding a set THC limit is a serious obstacle.

At present, the definition of hemp rests on a Total THC limit of 0.3%, a figure chosen in the 1970s for classification purposes, not for assessing the plant’s psychoactive effects. Bumping this limit up to 1% Total THC would have a negligible impact on impairment but could have a monumental effect on farmers’ operations.

Research from 2020 by the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, and Purdue demonstrated that more than half of the common hemp varieties could surpass the Total THC limit under certain conditions. However, this research also revealed that only 4% would breach the limit if it were raised to 1%.

Growing hemp that exhibits desirable traits for industrial uses, like a long straight stalk, high fiber, or high seed yield, requires the plant’s full maturation. This maturation is often linked to higher THC profiles. Unfortunately, the current strict conditions and genetic variation restrictions severely limit the plant’s potential applications.

While responsible hemp growers are in favor of state-led regulations for cannabinoid extractions that can cause impairment, it’s clear that an unrealistically low THC limit isn’t the best approach. Other nations, such as Thailand, Mexico, and Switzerland, have already updated their regulations, defining hemp as containing up to 1% Total THC.

By making a small change to the legal definition of hemp, we can unlock the industry’s potential. It will allow farmers across the nation to make the necessary investments to keep pace with an industry set to grow from being worth billions to trillions of dollars. By encouraging this change, we can foster American innovation and boost rural economies, reinvigorating the manufacturing sector in the process. Now is the time to recognize and adapt to the potential of this versatile plant.

How can you help?

Remember, members of Congress are elected to represent the interests of their constituents – that’s you. But they can only effectively do so when they’re fully informed about the issues that matter to you. Your voice is powerful and essential to our democratic process. By speaking up, you can provide important insights and help shape the future of the Hemp Industry.

Send an email to your members of congress.
Reach out directly to your Representative and Senators

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