Texas hemp makers are in a legal battle with the state to try to stop it from banning products made with THC isomers their companies have relied on for the past two years. But federal legislation introduced by a Democratic representative from Maine last week could make that fight unnecessary.
Dubbed the “Hemp Advancement Act of 2022,” the bill aims to do something Texas lawmakers attempted in the last legislative session: implement a low-percentage cap on all THC in herbal products. hemp, not just delta-9 THC. (Texas is also actively trying to ban all other THC isomers except delta-9.)
Federal and state hemp laws have legalized the cultivation of the plant, as long as it contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC, the main chemical in marijuana that gets users high. But the law didn’t set limits on other forms of THC, like delta-8 and delta-10. They are isomers of THC, chemicals that share the same formula as delta-9 but have different chemical structures and effects. Delta-8, for example, is generally considered less potent.
“The 2018 Farm Bill opened a legal pathway for hemp production, but created overly complicated regulations and hardship for farmers and small businesses in the process,” Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine said in a statement. press on the bill. “I am introducing the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 to eliminate unworkable testing requirements, set reasonable THC thresholds for growers and processors while protecting consumers, and end the discriminatory policy that prohibits people with drug convictions from grow legal hemp.”
Pingree did not respond to a request for comment.
Pingree thinks the THC cap should be raised to 1% during production, which in theory would make things easier for growers. It would be easier for them to stay below 1% THC during production than trying to stay below 0.3%. The end product should still be 0.3%. But under the new law, so much more of the plant is considered THC when all the isomers are included that it’s almost even more impractical for growers.
Some Texas growers are already sounding the alarm. “The Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 will destroy the hemp market,” Texas Hemp Growers posted on Facebook. Texas Hemp Growers is a Texas hemp industry association.
“The most alarming change is the redefinition of finished consumer hemp products from 0.3% delta-9 THC to 0.3% total THC, which will effectively destroy the smoking flower market and put many hemp growers out of business,” the group said. “Hardly any CBD flower stays below 0.3% total THC after the cure unless harvested prematurely.”
The group added: “There is an intention to significantly ban ALL delta-9 isomers. Delta-8, delta-10 and other isomers above 0.3% concentration would be made illegal nationwide. Any court case in Texas would be moot if this passes.
“The Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 will destroy the hemp market.” -Texas Hemp Growers
But not everything is bad and not everyone is against it. If passed, the bill would also remove some testing requirements and lift restrictions that prevent people guilty of drug-related crimes from obtaining a hemp license. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, people guilty of drug-related crimes must wait 10 years before they can obtain a hemp license. Current laws also state that potency testing must be performed by laboratories registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency. There are none in Maine. Labs would not have to be registered with the DEA to test the potency of hemp under the new law.
Jonathan Miller, who is general counsel for the US industry group Hemp Roundtable, said Forbes that the bill would help honor commitments made to hemp growers and processors under the 2018 Farm Bill. The American Herbal Products Association, Americans for Safe Access, Association of Western Hemp Professionals and other groups also say they support the bill.
“We are confident that the measures contained in the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 will address the critical issues that are holding back our industry and are essential to unlocking the unlimited agricultural and economic potential of this market,” adds Miller. “We are deeply grateful to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for her strong leadership in driving this legislation on behalf of hemp growers, processors and consumers nationwide.”
Miller said the legislation would create “separate regulatory pathways for non-intoxicating hemp and intoxicating adult-use cannabis products.” Yet those pathways aren’t defined in the bill, and it’s unclear what they would look like.
Texas Hemp Growers encouraged people to contact Pingree “to explain that his bill will disrupt the entire industry and requires serious work to be accepted by the hemp community.”