Home»Opinion»Don't Smoke the Messenger»DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: New FDA Rules Bust Hemp Boom?


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Remember that saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” Well, the heavy population of hemp-CBD advocates who have been demanding rules to govern this newly legalized crop just got our wish—in the worst way. One hundred sixty-one pages of new rules just took a pot-shot (pun intended) at our burgeoning southern Oregon hemp industry. As I’ve bragged about before in this column and on the Local Smoke Radio Podcast . . . and pretty much everywhere I go: southern Oregon has the best, smokable, boutique hemp-CBD flower in the country. That is all about to end.

At least for the next two years. Because starting on January 1st, 2020, the new FDA hemp rules take effect. Part of those rules include more stringent sampling and testing—overseen by the DEA. One particularly crucial detail is that the top two inches of flower from the plant will be what is tested for total THC (to ensure 0.3% or less). If levels of THC do not fall under that mark . . . the crop must be destroyed.

According to Oregon CBD, one of the world’s leading producers of high-CBD hemp seeds, “No high cannabinoid content, type III (CBD) plant variety in existence can meet this strict test unless harvested early or is genetically modified. This rule eviscerated the trimmed CBD flower market for 2020. Gone. No one, including us at Oregon CBD, has CBD seed varieties that can be trimmed and sold under these new rules.”

With 4,500 permits issued in Oregon alone in 2019, I can imagine this is not what everyone signed up for when they heard “CBD gold rush.” Particularly here in Jackson and Josephine counties where we grow some of the best cannabis in the world—whether it be high-CBD, high-THC or some other combination of cannabinoids, terpenoids and that extra little ingredient: love! This was supposed to be our cash cow, baby!

From a business perspective, the writing is on the wall. Make your moves quickly. Secure what you can to keep your new hemp and/or CBD business alive until the permanent rules are released in two years. From the community perspective: SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS. NOW! From the time the rules are released we, the public, have 60 days to submit comments on these rules. Southern Oregon, I sure hope you have something to say about this. 

Our newly legal cash crop could all get snatched away with rules that, to me, are not “in the spirit of the game.”  Shawn Hauser, partner and chair of the hemp and cannabinoids practice group at Vicente Sederberg LLP, said, “These provisions feel like relics of prohibition and come at a risk and expense to farmers, but they do not come as a surprise. It takes time to transition from prohibition to a regulatory model.”

But I, too, am not surprised. Historically, “hemp” has a more industrial connotation to its definition, bringing up thoughts of rope, hippie bracelets, textiles and fields that look more like thick bamboo than smokable cannabis.  “Marijuana,” or “high”-THC cannabis (over 0.3% THC), brings up, well—different ideas! If it were all made legal, we would be able to more freely utilize each different member of the species and each part of the cannabis plant for any number of potential purposes from medicine to food to textiles and beyond. 

But as it is, regulations are what block us from using the same plant to do many different things—as people have always done with cannabis—and these new regulations will block a lot of what was great about the hemp-CBD boom. But maybe weed will be legal next year anyway. 

Please, go submit your comments to the FDA.

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