A House Agriculture subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on hemp issues for next week, and the expectation is that members will be discussing expanding on regulations for the crop as part of the next Farm Bill package.
Members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research will meet on Thursday for the hearing, titled, “An Examination of the USDA Hemp Production Program.”
Hemp was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, opening up a cannabis market that has rapidly expanded—but not without industry growing pains. While advocates and stakeholders were pleased to see Congress incorporate certain feedback about rules for the non-intoxicating crop, they still see ample opportunity for improvement.
The hearing notice is currently light on details, and it doesn’t reference the 2023 Farm Bill that lawmakers have already started contemplating. But it wouldn’t be especially surprising if there was some discussion about ways to build upon the existing hemp regulations through that future large-scale agriculture legislation.
The chairman of the full committee, Rep. David Price (D-GA) said in February that he felt the next iteration of the Farm Bill should go even further than hemp and include provisions dealing with marijuana—specifically policies to remove cannabis industry barriers for Black entrepreneurs and small businesses.
As the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, I am committed to addressing the issue of cannabis in our next Farm Bill. We need to eliminate barriers for small businesses and Black entrepreneurs to start legal cannabis companies under state law. https://t.co/7P2yKFNYXr
— David Scott (@Electdavidscott) March 5, 2022
“Here we are, the fastest growing agricultural product, between hemp and cannabis,” he told Roll Call at the time. “We’ve got to address this issue. We can no longer hide it.”
Additionally, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), a member of the subcommittee that’s set to meet next week, filed a bill titled the “Hemp Advancement Act” in February that’s meant to provide hemp businesses with additional regulatory flexibility that stakeholders have been seeking. The measure, which she has said is intended to start discussion on reforms in anticipation of the next Farm Bill, would further remove a controversial ban on hemp market participation by people with prior drug convictions.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report in March that outlined various components of the 2018 Farm Bill and made recommendations for future policy considerations, including those dealing with hemp. For example, the paper noted stakeholder feedback about revising the federal definition of hemp by increasing the allowable THC limit from 0.3 percent to 1.0 percent THC per dry weight.
CRS also said that Congress should take into account industry complaints about the ongoing absence of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations to market hemp-derived CBD products in the food supply and possible take steps to address the problem.
Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee leaders recently released spending legislation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that calls for multiagency coordination to create guidance on hemp manufacturing and also recommends that the department work with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to resolve concerns about enforcement actions for so-called “hot hemp” that exceeds the 0.3 percent THC limit during extract processing.
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USDA released the results of a massive, first-ever federal survey on the hemp industry in February, providing a “benchmark” analysis of the economic impact of the burgeoning market. At a top level, the department’s survey found that the hemp market’s value reached $824 million in 2021, with about 54,200 acres grown across the country.
Back in Congress, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA) filed a bill earlier this year that’s aimed at allowing hemp and CBD derived from the crop to be marketed and sold as dietary supplements.
In the Senate, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced legislation that would similarly exempt “hemp, hemp-derived cannabidiol, or a substance containing any other ingredient derived from hemp” from certain restrictions that have blocked the emergence of legal consumable hemp products while the FDA has slow-walked regulations.
Paul also filed a separate measure last year that would triple the concentration of THC that hemp could legally contain while addressing multiple other concerns the industry has expressed about the federal regulations.
Next Thursday’s hemp hearing isn’t the only congressional cannabis meeting that’s set to take place next week. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will also convene on Tuesday to talk about the harms of federal marijuana criminalization.
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