Hemp, the hot crop approved in the 2018 Farm Bill, is finally getting more established as states set up their rules for the crop.
Recently, the Washington State Department of Agriculture announced it had finalized its regulatory plan for hemp production. The new rules establish new license fees and requirements for applications, THC testing and sampling protocols.
The agency’s plan takes effect later in January and has been submitted to USDA for approval. That step is required by the 2018 Farm Bill and state law. This year, Washington state lawmakers directed WSDA to initiate expedited rule-making to establish the hemp production program. Expedited rule-making eliminates the need for WSDA to hold public hearings or prepare a Small Business economic impact statement.
Here’s a look at the new requirements as put forth in the new rules.
Application requirements. Based on federal regulations, all applications must be accompanied by a criminal history report completed no more than 60 days before the date the application is submitted to WSDA. Applicants are also required to report hemp crop acreage to the USDA Farm Service Agency.
THC concentration. Hemp, to be legal, must have less than 0.3% THC content by dry weight. According to the new rules, WSDA will continue to test hemp using high-performance liquid chromatography, and calculate total THC(tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound that produces the “high” sensation) concentration by dry weight, as required by USDA.
Hemp sampling. A key to managing hemp is to test the crop before harvest. WSDA was sampling hemp 30 days before harvest, but will now trim that to 15 days before harvest as required by USDA. This move may require WSDA to contract with more labs in 2020, or hire more seasonal staff to handle the increased workload and avoid delays for producers.
The agency reports it will also move from a whole-plant sampling procedure to taking a cutting from just underneath flowering material in the top third of the plant.
Application window. Currently, WSDA issues licenses year-round, each with a different expiration date. With the new rules, all applications must be submitted between Jan. 1 and March 31. All licenses expire April 30 following the year the license is issued. Application submitted after March 31 will be subject to a $200 late fee.
The agency reports that the new standard application window will help allocate resources year-round, and to plan proactively for harvest. This can help ensure that seasonal staff are trained and ready.
License fees. Under the new rules, WSDA will combine the application and license fee to a single $750 fee. Beginning June 1, 2020, that fill will rise to $1,200, with the intent of covering all program expenses required by the 2018 Farm Bill and USDA rules. The fee is based on current data, but if more licenses are issued than anticipated, WSDA will reevaluate fees to bring revenue in line with program expenses.
USDA is currently accepting comments on its interim rules, and WSDA would adjust its rules and procedures if USDA makes changes. You can get more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.