12/22/18 Update

December 22, 2018

Happy holidays to you all! It is an understatement to say that it has been a monumental week in the hemp world. Our sincere thanks go out to everyone who made the passage of the hemp-related provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill a reality. In particular, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the primary role that the U.S. Hemp Roundtable played in this success; it is likely that this simply would not have happened without their efforts.

2018 U.S. Farm Bill
With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the entire regulatory structure for hemp in this country has changed significantly. Some of the highlights of the hemp-related provisions in the Farm Bill include the following:

– The Farm Bill modified the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to remove both hemp and THC contained in hemp from the CSA.. This is probably the most important change in the bill. This means that federal law would no longer directly regulate the processing, sale, and possession of hemp and hemp products except under generally applicable laws such as those related to food safety. Only “producers” of hemp crops are now subject to specific hemp-related requirements under federal law.

– The federal definition of “hemp” is modified to clarify that it applies to any part of that plant or products derived from the plant, including seeds, extracts, oils, etc. This should help the industry to avoid overreach by regulators.

– The Farm Bill validates hemp as a mainstream crop, by opening the door to eligibility for crop insurance programs and federally-funded research programs.

– Tribal authority is expanded so that Indian Tribes are treated similarly to states with respect to their ability to establish a hemp regulatory system.
States (and Tribes) are provided the opportunity to seek “primary regulatory authority” over the production of hemp. A relatively simple plan must be submitted to the USDA for this authority to be granted.

– The Farm Bill also includes safe harbor protections for hep growers that significantly limit any possible criminal liability for farmers who’s crops turn out to have a higher THC level than expected.

– States and other agencies are prohibited from interfering with the interstate commerce of hemp, and states are preempted from establish transport restrictions within their borders.

This is a big victory for hemp at the federal level. However, there is a lot of work to be done in Wisconsin to give full effect to the Farm Bill’s hemp-related provisions. We do not expect things to change overnight, but we are already connecting with Governor-elect Evers’ transition team and with hemp leaders in the State Legislature such as Senator Testin and Rep-elect Kurtz to establish a plan for taking advantage of this opportunity as soon as possible. In the meantime, we expect that Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will continue to move forward with the 2019 hemp growing season in the same manner that they had planned prior to action on the Farm Bill. Remember to spread the word that DATCP decided to extend the application deadline for new licenses for growing or processing hemp in 2019, to March 1st.

FDA Regulation
One of the big challenges that remains in place at the federal level is caused by the overlay of regulatory authority in the hemp space that is exercised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Following passage of the Farm Bill, the FDA immediately put out an official statement reiterating that their position on the legality of hemp and hemp-derived products in the marketplace, and that the FDA’s authority to regulate these products was not changed by enactment of the Farm Bill. It is our recommendation that everyone who is involved in the hemp industry look carefully at that statement and assess its implications for their operations.

Jonathan Miller and his team at the U.S. Hemp Roundtable issued a response to the FDA statement that describes their hope for the industry’s ability to help the FDA to continue to evolve in its regulatory approach to hemp. We cannot overstate the value to the industry that would be realized if the FDA utilizes its existing authority to further reduce its regulatory touch on hemp in this country.

Side Notes
Earlier this month, a Hemp Workshop was held as part of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting. This event was very well received and we thank Rob Richard, Karen Gefvert, the rest of the Farm Bureau team, and the excellent field of presenters and participants at this event.

Lat week, we met with law enforcement interests and other hemp supporters to talk about ways that the hemp industry in Wisconsin can collaborate with law enforcement to manage or eliminate challenges they face with marijuana enforcement. Stay tuned and we will share what comes of further discussions.

Please visit the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance website at www.wishemp.org. We are interested in hearing more suggestions about what information you would like to see added to this platform. For the large number of you that have joined this email list in the last month, please be sure to visit our site to review past updates which contain a host of information on hemp in Wisconsin.

Lastly, a big thank you to the staff and administration at DATCP for their accessibility, effort, entrepreneurial spirit, and open mindednes in the first year of our state’s hemp re-boot. They have gone above and beyond what has been required and were a big part of making 2018 the success that it was. Thank you!

Thanks, and enjoy the holidays!

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