Earlier this month, Oregonians voted to decriminalize the personal use and possession of all drugs. That’s a significant milestone in the recent effort by lawmakers and drug-safety advocates who believe that harm reduction is more effective than criminalization. Oregon was also the first state to decriminalize cannabis and has since become a hub of enterprise for that industry, along with CBD. But despite the state’s cannabis policies, the USDA has yet to approve federal hemp cultivation regulations, leaving many states (including Oregon) in limbo. Consumers of hemp CBD products could benefit from those regulations but there are some who argue that those benefits might negatively impact their businesses.
The 2014 Pilot Program for hemp farming offered relatively lax regulations on hemp production as the USDA established more comprehensive protocols. And in 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act saw hemp removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances. It also appointed the USDA to regulate hemp production under a program that they would create. But the organization has yet to develop that program, which would allow hemp farmers to benefit from other federally approved farming programs. And as a result, the USDA extended their final decision another year, allowing states to continue growing hemp under their previously approved terms.
Here’s the issue: states and territories approved for hemp production in 2014 operate under different standards than those approved to grow hemp by the USDA in 2018, which required CBD consumer goods to contain a maximum of .3% THC (Botanical Solutions operates under the latter). Some hemp farmers, approved for production in 2018, argue that the USDA’s decision to delay this program until 2021 has disadvantaged their businesses because of stricter regulations their competitors don’t follow. If a CBD manufacturer, approved for operations in 2018 for example, creates a product with more than .3% THC, they could face legal consequences. But those manufacturers approved under the 2014 Pilot Program would not face the same consequences. It means that some manufacturers lose product and money while others benefit from unregulated codes of conduct — and that has become a major point of contention in the hemp industry.
Now looking to close on a decision by 2021, the USDA is facing a deal of criticism from hemp farmers who want to equitably compete in a growing market. This new program would undoubtedly change the way we interact with hemp in finance and agriculture. It would increase competition, boost hemp production, and create a universal standard of cannabinoid manufacturing. Additionally, these more stringent protocols will require advanced technology and a more nuanced understanding of THC remediation, which Botanical Solutions already boasts.
One of the most important discussions surrounding the regulation of hemp agriculture and processing is that of standardizing hemp products. On one hand, consumers should feel confident that when they purchase a CBD product, they are investing in something that is effective. Current regulations don’t standardize the manufacturing of hemp CBD products, meaning that across the country, consumers are purchasing products in their locales that are potentially different from products in other regions. Hemp CBD products in Oregon, for example, might be very different in their potency from those available in Illinois due to the different regulations imposed in both states. Standardization means that everyone, no matter where they live, can rely on purchasing products that are similar in quality to other products around the country. Many CBD businesses argue that this will enhance competition, encouraging retailers to innovate better products for consumption. It would mean that whether a consumer buys a hemp CBD product in Oregon or Illinois, those products will be equally potent. Alternatively, some businesses believe that regulations on hemp production will encroach on the competitive edge some brands have already established and will effectively taint their product quality. Some consumers prefer stronger CBD products which, under currency regulations, some retailers can offer without contest. Standardization could potentially cap all CBD products at .3% THC as opposed to others who currently make products with up to .5% THC. It’s a nuanced topic but consumers should know the challenges our industry faces to provide them the products they are purchasing.
In all, Botanical Solutions is prepared for any and all changes presented by the USDA because we understand the science and we’ve invested in the technology to stay ahead of our competitors. Botanical Solutions is excited to continue offering the best quality, federally regulated hemp processing services in the industry.