Lab testing

What is the 0.3% THC Limit?

Written by Antonio DeRose

The world of hemp is full of rules and regulations, with very specifically defined processes and procedures. This includes the famously discussed, and often debated, 0.3% THC limit imposed on hemp farmers. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed in December of the same year, hemp was defined at a federal level as being any part of the Cannabis sativa L. plant “with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis”. This allowed farmers in the United States to start cultivating and selling industrial hemp, as long as the plants tested less than 0.3% THC.

The bill also established official lab testing requirements and set the initial procedures and penalties for farmers whose hemp crops test over the allowable limit of THC. Testing above the 0.3% THC limit, referred to by many farmers as testing “hot”, is followed by a sequence of steps that ultimately end in the destruction of the entire hemp crop that the sample was tested for. This results in a lot of wasted time, work, and money for hemp farmers, but these are procedures they must follow to be compliant with federal hemp laws. It’s a big reason farming hemp can still be a gamble some farmers aren’t willing to make.

Hope for hemp farmers is on the horizon though, with the USDA just having published the final rule on domestic hemp production in January 2021, which officially took effect on March 22nd. Although the entire hemp industry would have liked to see the 0.3% THC limit increased, the THC limit remains the same. However, the negligent violation threshold for hemp crops that test over 0.3% THC, was increased from 0.5% to 1%. This increase reduces the chances of hemp farmers incurring negligent violations. The final rule also implemented newly accepted, and more flexible, disposal and remediation options for crops testing over 0.3% THC.

These two changes, along with several others defined in the new final rule, help lower the risks for farmers who want to grow hemp. As the hemp industry continues to evolve, so will the laws surrounding its cultivation and sale. Maybe one day the 0.3% THC limit will change, but until then, it’s a challenge that hemp farmers will continue to face.

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Antonio DeRose

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