Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend the public comment period for its proposed hemp regulations, citing concerns about certain prohibitive rules.
During a Wednesday trip to Miller Organics, a hemp farm in New York, Schumer discussed the industry’s economic potential since the crop and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA released draft regulations for hemp last month, but while stakeholders consider that a step in the right direction, many have said the proposals are too restrictive.
“There are all kinds of issues, and some people believe the [THC] level they set is way too low, because it’s way below the harmful level,” Schumer said, according to The Daily News. “You put all that together and they need to look at these rules and re-examine them.”
“This has tremendous, tremendous potential, and all the excitement about growing and processing hemp, and creating lots of jobs, could go away if these rules are done in too narrow and restrictive a way,” he said.
Schumer touched on issues that numerous stakeholders have already raised in the comment period, which is currently scheduled to end on December 31.
“Until recently, growing hemp was illegal and the outdated Washington criminal code puts industrial hemp as dangerous as crack cocaine or heroin because they mixed it up with marijuana.”
Hemp businesses have argued that while hemp is federally defined as cannabis containing no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, the margin of error should be increased. They also want alternative testing methods that only assess delta-9 THC levels rather than the full spectrum of THC to be available, and argue that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-registered laboratories shouldn’t be the only facilities approved to test hemp.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to the head of USDA last week that similarly drew from stakeholder feedback and listed five recommended changes to the proposed regulations.
Schumer said at the hemp farm that New York hemp businesses are especially well positioned to take advantage of hemp’s legal status, stating that “our soil, our weather, our conditions are very good for industrial hemp, so we could become one of the centers of growing.”
“Hemp is a great alternative,” he said. “This area is one of the greatest fruit and vegetable-growing areas in the country and people who grow different specialty crops could also grow hemp.”
He made similar comments at the beginning of the year, while welcoming the cannabis company Canopy Growth to his state as it prepared to make a multimillion dollar investment in a hemp cultivation facility.
Schumer has also paid close attention to the CBD industry, urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month to speed up its rulemaking process for the cannabis compound. But while USDA unveiled their regulations about 10 months after hemp was legalized, FDA officials have said it could take years to develop rules without separate congressional action.
Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.