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Farm Bill amendment would ban all hemp-derived THC, close THCA ‘loophole’

Amendment could ban all hemp-derived THC, close THCA loophole
Farm Bill Amendment

By Chris Roberts, Reporter

May 23, 2024 - Updated May 23, 2024

The future of the nationwide market for hemp-derived cannabinoids is uncertain as Congress debates the next U.S. Farm Bill. Will they protect this market, or will the state-regulated marijuana industry succeed in eliminating competition? The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group, has warned that a proposed amendment could lead to a federal ban on “all ingestible hemp products with any level of THC.”

The $1.5 trillion Farm Bill, which is nearly nine months overdue, is scheduled for a markup hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture. One of the key issues in this bill is the regulation of the growing domestic market for hemp-derived cannabinoids, estimated to be worth up to $28 billion.

Closing the Loophole on Hemp-Derived THCA and Delta-8 THC

An initial draft of the Farm Bill, published by Rep. Glenn “GT” Thomas, proposed redefining “hemp” to include hemp grown for cannabinoid extraction. However, Rep. Mary Miller has filed an amendment to exclude products with detectable amounts of THC and any cannabinoid synthesized or manufactured outside the plant. This amendment could make most delta-8 THC and other novel cannabinoids illegal under federal law.

Miller’s amendment also redefines “hemp” to mean a cannabis plant with 0.3% or less THC, including THCA, which converts to intoxicating THC when heated. Miller stated that her amendment aims to close the loophole allowing intoxicating hemp products like delta-8 THC, which she claims are marketed to teenagers and children.

Thursday Hearing on the Farm Bill

Various interests are lobbying the House Committee on Agriculture to revise the Farm Bill. While some focus on unrelated issues like cutting $30 billion from the SNAP program or continuing subsidies for large agribusinesses, others, including the marijuana and hemp industries, are concerned with the regulation of intoxicating cannabinoids derived from hemp.

Proponents of the status quo want to continue allowing hemp-derived products to be marketed and sold under state regulations. Others seek to regulate hemp like marijuana, effectively admitting that legalizing a nationwide market for hemp-derived THC was a mistake.

Closing the perceived loophole with THCa
Marijuana vs. Hemp in a Survival Struggle

Marijuana vs. Hemp in a Survival Struggle

For businesses in the hemp industry, the draft Farm Bill is nearly ideal as it maintains the current federal definition of hemp while addressing “hemp grown for cannabinoid extraction.” However, Miller’s amendment could drastically change fortunes for hemp producers by excluding hemp-derived products containing cannabinoids not naturally produced by the Cannabis sativa L. plant or synthesized outside the plant.

U.S. Hemp Roundtable General Counsel Jonathan Miller warned that the amendment could lead to a federal prohibition of 90-95% of all hemp products on the market, including many non-intoxicating CBD products with trace amounts of THC. This could disrupt the fiber and grain markets, kill thousands of jobs, and deny access to popular health and wellness products.

Closing the Perceived Loophole

The regulated marijuana industry might welcome Miller’s amendment. The U.S. Cannabis Council, representing many multi-state marijuana operators, has advocated for excluding hemp-derived products with detectable THC from the Farm Bill, allowing states to regulate them like cannabis products.

Synthetic THC Question

The American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) believes that hemp product manufacturers have overreached by creating THC alternatives like delta-8 THC. While they argue that Congress did not intend to legalize synthetic THC, they acknowledge the current confusion surrounding these products.

Passing the Farm Bill – A Tall Order

It remains uncertain whether Congress, divided with narrow majorities, can pass any Farm Bill this year. The 2018 Farm Bill expired in September 2023, and ongoing leadership battles have stalled progress. Vicious partisan conflicts could further delay the bill, potentially pushing it to the next Congress.

According to the Hemp Roundtable’s Miller, “This Farm Bill is on life support as it is.” With opposition from both Democrats and the Freedom Caucus, passing the bill this year will be a significant challenge.

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