The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and its derivatives from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and provided a detailed framework for growing hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill also gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) a federal regulator of hemp cultivation, although states have the option to maintain the primary regulator of the crops grown within their borders by submitting a plan to the USDA. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) tabled the Oregon Hemp Plan on August 14, 2020, not long before the October 31, 2020 deadline set in the 2018 Farm Bill.
ODA is the primary regulator for hemp in Oregon, one of the first states to allow industrial hemp production under the 2014 Farm Bill. For an introduction to the Oregon Hemp Act, see Hemp CBD Across State Lines: Oregon, which is part of our 50-state series of rules and regulations for hemp.
The ODA has now withdrawn the hemp plan it presented to the USDA in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The letter is, as the ODA explains, “in response to the passing of the Act on Rolling Funds of 2021 and the Act on Other Enhancements. President Trump signed the bill on October 1, 2020. Section 122 extends the 2014 Farm Bill hemp pilot program to September 30, 2021. “This means that the next growing season in Oregon will be under the 2014 Farm Bill, not the Hemp plan is carried out.
Why did the ODA do this? The ODA states the withdrawal will allow time to resolve some of the “problems and concerns” set out in the USDA’s tentative final rules and to seek legislative guidance. What could these “problems and concerns” be? See the following:
Crucially, the ODA’s withdrawal of the hemp plan doesn’t change Oregon’s current laws and regulations for hemp. The rule that applies on January 1, 2020, according to which THC must be tested for “total THC” before harvest, remains in force. However, Oregon introduced a total THC test requirement in June 2019, as Nathalie Bougenies explained in June 2019: Oregon Hemp: The new ODA standard “Total THC” is a key problem for operation and contract. Although ODA will not adopt the proposed rules tabled in August 2020 regarding the hemp plan, ODA will also adopt the rules and regulations that will apply “for household purposes” from January 1, 2021.
Oregon hemp is currently in a position with respect to hemp where “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. For hemp growers, processors, and others, the ODA’s decision to withdraw the hemp plan should ensure consistency between this year’s growing and harvesting season and the 2021 hemp growing and harvesting season. All in all, that’s a good thing.