Despite the wild west stage hemp is currently running through, the versatile crop is here to stay. From fiber, to extraction, to smokable flower, 465,787 acres of hemp were planted across the United States in 2020, according to Hemp Industry Daily. While that is a very large stash, more than a few farmers have had their crops go up in smoke...and not in a good way.
For example, USA Today reported, "About 13% of Iowa farmers' hemp fields had to be fully or partially destroyed because the THC levels in the plants exceeded 0.3%, the maximum allowed under state and federal laws."
According to the USDA interim final rule enacted on October 31, 2019, "the term “hemp” means the plant species 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 federal law, anything above .3 percent is considered marijuana.
With the vast majority of hemp grown outside, thousands of variables can affect how the plant will produce THC. In an article published by Terpenes and Testing Magazine, "THC and other cannabinoids are plant defense mechanisms, and cannabis responds to environmental stress with decisive chemical action." It is also worth noting genetics also play a role in how a plant will produce THC. Farmers should always throughly research which strains they will choose to plant.
Iowa isn't the only state watching its crops go up in smoke. This is an issue farmers in every state face. Besides battling pests, the weather, and a million other factors, farmers have to battle the plants themselves in order to remain compliant with already outdated laws.
There is a push from dozens of groups to raise the legal THC limit to 1 percent. Everything from financial damage to farmers to how the extraction process and the THC percentage correlate has been cited as reasons to change the legal limit.
However, there is hope for the hemp sector of the cannabis industry. In early December, the House passed the MORE Act, which, if passed by the Senate, will decriminalize marijuana. This could open up the door needed to raising the THC limit for legal hemp.
The hemp industry is growing, but the .3 percent THC threshold is hurting our farmers. The current threshold puts farmers at unnecessary risk of losing their otherwise healthy crop. Without reasonable boundaries, the industry's growth is restricted. Thankfully, the current research within the industry is helping to provide valuable information used to change outdated legislation. Only through education and research will we pull hemp out of its wild west stage into a new era.