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Hemp Gets Federally Recognized

Hemp has a long history of use in the United States and around the world. However, it has been illegal to grow in the United States for decades unless grown under a federal, state, or university program. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp a federally recognized agricultural commodity. This change in classification provides the organic industry with an opportunity to diversify crops and create new products so long as all federal requirements are met. 

The 2018 Farm Bill in section 297A defines hemp as  “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.”

Under the new farm bill, growers must obtain a state license to grow hemp. For growers who want to incorporate hemp into their crop rotation, pursuing a state license should be a priority. Infrastructure and allowances for licensing will vary across the states. Farmers are responsible for following all regulations in the state where they plan to grow. 

Growers and processors will also need to seek out seed, clones, and hemp-derived ingredients that contain less than 0.3 percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp that the federal government uses to distinguish between the two. Hemp contains less THC than marijuana, but the amount found in hemp can vary between strains and phenotypes. Growers and processors will want to avoid “hot hemp,” which is hemp that contains greater than 0.3 percent THC.

The new farm bill enables the movement of hemp and hemp-derived products throughout the United States. This authorizes trade across state lines even when passing through states that don’t allow the production and/or sale of hemp. Previously, authorized producers faced challenges trying to obtain hemp seed because it was illegal to move across state lines. CCOF believes these changes will empower growers and processors to expand their markets across the United States and beyond.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is currently a buzzword across the food and health care industries. CCOF is often asked if we can certify CBD products, including full spectrum hemp extract. Based on the farm bill definition of hemp, hemp-derived CBD and full spectrum hemp extract are federally legal. This opens the door for organic certification of CBD products. CBD can be extracted from hemp in a variety of ways and not all extraction methods are allowed in organic production. For example, butane extraction is prohibited for organic CBD. 

CCOF will evaluate hemp products for compliance with USDA NOP regulations. Producers are responsible for following all additional federal, state, and local laws that apply to CBD and other hemp derivative products, including labeling requirements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the regulating body for products that contain CBD. They released a statement on CBD in January 2019 that all producers should consider when planning to launch a new CBD product.