Six states that submitted hemp regulatory plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are being asked to make revisions and resubmit before they’re approved.
For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, the federal agency did not accept proposed rules for the newly legal crop from California, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah. Industry advocates suspect that the states are pushing for additional flexibility in USDA’s interim final rule.
“As we have done from day one, [Colorado Department of Agriculture] is working through the state plan submission and approval process in a careful and comprehensive manner to best serve the needs of Colorado,” Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg said in a press release on Tuesday.
“Given the many changes at the federal level, we are working hard to create a stable and sound regulatory environment so that Colorado’s hemp industry can continue to lead the nation,” she said.
Westword reported that Colorado regulators included certain provisions in their proposal that are at odds with USDA’s requirements. For example, they wanted hemp to be tested at independent facilities, whereas USDA’s rules mandate that the crop be tested only at labs certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Arizona was previously listed as a state pending resubmission of their plan, but that has since been updated to say “under review,” indicating that regulators made edits and sent a revised proposal back to the agency.
USDA approved hemp regulatory plans for Maryland and the Lower Sioux Indian Community earlier this month, bringing the total number of approved plans across states, territories and tribes to 55.
The DEA requirement is one of several components of the agency’s interim final rule that industry stakeholders, advocates and lawmakers are pushing back against. They also want more leniency when it comes to THC testing thresholds and hemp disposal policies.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue earlier this month that hemp farmers should be able to continue to operate under a regulatory pilot program established under the more flexible 2014 Farm Bill so that the department can hear more feedback and make adjustments to rules for the broader legalization program under the 2018 Farm Bill, which he wants delayed until 2022.
State agriculture departments and a major hemp industry group made a similar request to both Congress and USDA last week.
“Given many of the burdensome regulatory requirements in the Interim Final Rule, we applaud states Iike California who are trying to develop plans with maximum flexibility for farmers on issues such as testing, sampling and disposal,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told Marijuana Moment.
“Ultimately the industry is united in urging for an extension of the ability of states to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill which will enable farmers to grow the crop during these difficult economic times,” he said.
Two senators representing Oregon recently expressed concerns with the secretary that USDA appears positioned to reinstate two particular provisions of its interim final rule that stakeholders view as especially problematic.