by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 29, 2019

The United States Department of Agriculture has issued interim rules governing the commercial cultivation of hemp. The rules are still subject to a mandatory 60-day public comment period following their publication in the Federal Register.

States the agency, “If a State or Indian Tribes wants to have primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp in that State or territory of that Indian Tribe they may submit, for the approval of the Secretary, a plan concerning the monitoring and regulation of such hemp production. … With the publication of the interim rule, USDA will begin to implement the hemp program including reviewing State and Tribal plans and issuing licenses under the USDA hemp plan.”

Legislation signed into law in 2018 mandates the USDA to promulgate regulations and guidelines to facilitate the licensed production of industrial hemp and products containing cannabinoids derived from the plant. Under the federal law, cannabis plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance.

Greg Ibach, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, said that the agency will “use the 2020 growing season to test drive the interim rule to guide any adjustments made in the final rule.” Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who spearheaded the 2018 law change, said that the USDA’s latest actions “will help farmers around the country continue pioneering this crop into the 21st century. … There will inevitably be ups and downs as this new industry develops, but today’s announcement is another crucial step (forward).”

Full text of the interim rules are available online here.