Hemp farmers and hemp smokers cheered when president Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018. Industrial hemp is now legal in all 50 states, and interstate commerce in hemp is also legal. The new law also appeared to legalize derivatives of hemp including CBD. The DEA could no longer treat CBD as an illegal drug like THC.
At some point people read the fine print. Industrial hemp remained defined in the following manner:
The term `hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
This means that hemp-derived products, such as CBD oil, still had to contain less than 0.3% delta 9 THC. All such products on the U.S. market already contain such low amounts.
States and Indian Tribes are allowed to manage hemp growing in their states. Section 297 of the new law outlines the guidelines for these state programs. The section that concerned some hemp flower enthusiasts on Reddit is below:
“SEC. 297B. STATE AND TRIBAL PLANS. [must develop]a procedure for testing, using post- decarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods, delta- 9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration levels of hemp produced in the State or territory of the Indian tribe.
Essentially the states and tribes are required to have a “reliable method” to assure that the industrial hemp being grown is really legal hemp, not illegal marijuana. They list “post-decarboxylation” as one example of a reliable method. Presumably it is not the only reliable method.
Currently available industrial hemp flowers sometimes contain both very low levels of delta 9 THC and very low levels of THCA. When hemp flower is smoked or vaped some of the THCA is converted to THC. If all hemp plants were tested post-decarboxylation the effective THC levels might be higher than the legal limit. Some of today’s legal hemp might not pass the new test.
The new law does not actually require post-decarb testing. It says nothing about THCA. It’s too soon to know exactly how the .3% figure will be applied this time next year.
U.S. Hemp is currently grown in demonstration programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. These programs are expected to continue and states will be able to expand them this year. Hemp is being grown for seed, for fiber, and for CBD. The strains of cannabis (hemp) grown for these different purposes are quite different from each other. As states continue to develop these programs we should see more hemp on the market in 2019. We just don’t know exactly how potent it will be.