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USDA Approves Hemp Plan For Minnesota, Tennessee and Puerto Rico

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved hemp regulatory plans from Minnesota, Tennessee and Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

This latest development brings the total number of approved plans across states, territories and Indian tribes to 53.

“We thank USDA for their work on this new federal hemp program, and we are grateful they have approved Minnesota’s plan,” Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “While this is a major step forward, there are still concerns over some the regulations imposed on states and tribal governments, such as testing requirements. We look forward to continuing our dialog with USDA so we can ensure Minnesota’s hemp growers and processors are successful in this fledging industry.”

Puerto Rico is the second territory approval since the crop was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. In May, USDA accepted the U.S. Virgin Islands’s proposed regulations.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón (R), who represents the territory in Congress, discussed her advocacy for other cannabis reform legislation—including preventing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from denying home loan benefits to veterans solely due to employment in a state-legal marijuana market—in a press release.

USDA has been signing off on hemp proposals on a rolling basis over the past year.

“USDA continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes,” the department said in a notice.

While the agency released an interim final rule for a domestic hemp production program last year, industry stakeholders and lawmakers have expressed concerns about certain policies it views as excessively restrictive.

USDA announced in February that it will temporarily lift two provisions that the industry viewed as problematic. Those policies primarily concern testing and disposal requirements. The department declined to revise the THC limit, however, arguing that it’s a statutory matter that can’t be dealt with administratively.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said on several occasions that the Drug Enforcement Administration influenced certain rules, adding that the narcotics agency wasn’t pleased with the overall legalization of hemp.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still in the process of developing regulations for CBD. It sent an update on its progress to Congress in March, explaining that the agency is actively exploring pathways to allow for the marketing of the cannabis compound as a dietary supplement and is developing enforcement discretion guidance.

An FDA public comment period was reopened indefinitely for individuals to submit feedback on CBD regulations.

This month, the White House finalized a review of FDA CBD and cannabis research protocols, but it’s unclear when or if the document will be released to the public.

Also this month, FDA submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace, and the document outlines studies the agency has performed on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products that it has tested over the past six years.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hemp industry associations pushed for farmers to be able to access to certain COVID-19 relief loans—a request that Congress granted in the most recent round of coronavirus legislation.

However, USDA has previously said that hemp farmers are specifically ineligible for its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. While the department initially said it would not reevaluate the crop’s eligibility based on new evidence, it removed that language shortly after Marijuana Moment reported on the exclusion.

Two members of Congress representing New York also wrote a letter to Perdue last month, asking that the agency extend access to that program to hemp farmers.

Hemp farmers approved to produce the crop do stand to benefit from other federal loan programs, however. The department recently released guidelines for processing loans for the industry.

New Jersey Governor Says Legalizing Marijuana A ‘No-Brainer’ For Coronavirus Economic Recovery

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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