A Recap of the Establishment of the United States Domestic Hemp Production Program

The United States’ hemp industry is a constant work-in-progress; however, the country has made significant strides in establishing a domestic hemp production program. The United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) recently released its final rule, which has been long-awaited by the hemp community. Read below for a recap of recent progress as a reminder to continue putting forth effort and energy toward uniform cannabis legislation in the United States.

February 7, 2014: The Agricultural Act of 2014

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (“2014 Farm Bill”), signed into law by President Obama, was the second attempt to pass a new Farm Bill through Congress. This Bill authorized nutrition and agricultural programs in the United States for the following four years and permitted over $956 billion in spending over the next decade. One of the goals of the 2014 Farm Bill was to develop research into hemp, and another section defined hemp as distinct from marijuana and permitted hemp research and pilot programs.

December 20, 2018: The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (“2018 Farm Bill”), signed into law by President Trump, continued the effort started by the 2014 Farm Bill, and directed the USDA to put forth regulations and the foundations for a domestic hemp production program. Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act’s (CSA) definition of marijuana and provided the following definition of hemp:

“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 essential amendment issued deeper certainty for businesses and government entities, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) regarding how to approach hemp-related matters. For instance, the USPTO will typically no longer issue “CSA refusals” to applicants of hemp-based trademarks regarding goods or services that are compliant with the 2018 Farm Bill, and the DEA will now enforce hemp-related matters in a more structured, consistent manner.

October 31, 2019: USDA Interim Final Rule

The USDA issued an interim final rule that outlined specific criteria and procedures for a domestic hemp production program in the United States. With various provisions, the interim final rule covered license application requirements, rules surrounding the sampling and testing of hemp, and the compliance and violation matters of hemp production and regulation. The interim final rule was effective immediately, but was also open to the public for feedback and recommended revisions. This period extended through January 29, 2020, and then reopened again in September and October of 2020. 

January 19, 2021: USDA Puts Forth Final Rule

In the most recent development regarding the United States hemp production program, the USDA put forth their final rule in the first couple weeks of 2021. This ruling addressed several revisions and recommendations from industry stakeholders, but left some of the questionable provisions as they were. However, with the final rule, the USDA brought the lengthy process to a close and effectively launched a legal, regulated hemp production program in the United States.

Chelsie Spencer is an experienced hemp lawyer and a founding member of Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC, a law firm located in Dallas, Texas. With years of experience representing clients throughout all sectors of the cannabis and hemp industries, our experts are prepared to guide your hemp business throughout the legal manufacturing, sale, and distribution of hemp products and ensure business success in 2021. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or give us a call at 214.295.5070 for more information.