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Farm Bill amendment would ban all hemp-derived THC, close THCA ‘loophole’

Will Congress protect the nationwide market for hemp-derived cannabinoids through the next U.S. Farm Bill, or will the state-regulated marijuana industry succeed in squashing an unwelcome competitor?

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Under one proposed amendment, filed Wednesday ahead of a key hearing Thursday, “all ingestible hemp products with any level of THC” would be federally banned, warned the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group.

The $1.5 trillion Farm Bill, already nearly nine months overdue, is scheduled for a markup hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture on Thursday.

Among the many points of contention in the sprawling bill, which Congress normally updates every five years, is what to do with the burgeoning domestic market in hemp-derived cannabinoids, estimated to be worth as much as $28 billion.

‘Closing the loophole’ on TCHA and delta-8 THC

An initial draft Farm Bill published last week by Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Glenn “GT” Thomas, the ag committee chairman, proposed to redefine “hemp” under federal law to include hemp grown for cannabinoid extraction.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, an Illinois Republican, filed a proposed amendment to that text that would “exclude” products with detectable amounts of THC as well as any cannabinoid “synthesized or manufactured outside of the plant.”

That language would render most products containing delta-8 THC and other novel cannabinoids such as HHC illegal under federal law.

Miller’s amendment also would redefine “hemp” under federal law to mean a cannabis plant with 0.3% or less THC – including tetrahydracannabinolic acid, or THCA, the biosynthetic precursor to THC that becomes intoxicating THC when heated.

I am offering an amendment to close the loophole that legalized intoxicating hemp products like ‘Delta-8,’ which is being marketed to teenagers and children,” Miller said in a message posted to the social media site X.

“These drug-infused products are often sold in colorful packaging next to candy and snacks, which parents strongly oppose!”

Thursday hearing on Farm Bill

Many competing interests are lobbying the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture to drastically revise the $1.5 trillion, 942-page Farm Bill.

And most of them have nothing to do with hemp.

Democrats are furious that Thomas proposes to cut $30 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Plan (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program.

Meanwhile, Thomas’ far-right colleagues are bristling at his proposal to continue massive subsidies for large agribusiness interests.

Somewhere in the middle, lobbyists for the marijuana and hemp industries are trying to grab lawmakers’ attention long enough to address intoxicating cannabinoids derived from hemp, a nationwide market created by the 2018 Farm Bill.

What they want is either:

  • Preservation of the status quo, which allows hemp-derived products to be marketed and sold pursuant to state regulations.

  • A de facto admission from Congress that legalizing a nationwide market in hemp-derived THC was a mistake and that hemp ought to be regulated like marijuana.

Marijuana vs. hemp in a survival struggle

For those businesses already engaged in the hemp industry, the draft Farm Bill that Thompson released last week is near-ideal: It leaves the federal definition of hemp as-is while adding language that addresses “hemp grown for cannabinoid extraction.”

But Rep. Miller’s amendment, filed Wednesday, would turn fortunes for hemp producers sharply.

The amendment states that “hemp” does not include hemp-derived products containing cannabinoids that:

  • “are not capable of being naturally produced by a Cannabis sativa L. plant;”

  • “were synthesized or manufactured outside the plant;”

  • “have similar effects (or are marketed to have similar effects) on humans or animals as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.)”

In a statement about the proposed Farm Bill amendment, U.S. Hemp Roundtable General Counsel Jonathan Miller urged its defeat by House lawmakers in Thursday’s markup meeting.

“By federally banning all ingestible hemp products with any quantifiable level of THC, the Mary Miller Amendment would result in federal prohibition of 90-95% of all hemp products on the market, even a large majority of popular, non-intoxicating CBD products that naturally contain trace, non-intoxicating amounts of THC in them,” he said.

“The redefinition of hemp to include a calculation of THC-A would wreak havoc in the fiber and grain markets … killing tens of thousands of agriculture and retail jobs, and denying access to popular products that Americans count on for their health and wellness.

‘Closing the perceived loophole’

But at least one lobbying group is likely to be pleased with Rep. Miller’s proposed amendment – and it represents the regulated marijuana industry.

Last month, the U.S. Cannabis Council – members of which include many multistate marijuana operators – circulated a letter asking lawmakers to exclude from the new Farm Bill any hemp-derived product with “detectable quantities of total THC and any other intoxicant that can be derived from hemp including other forms of THC.”

In a statement, USCC spokesperson Josh Glasstetter said excluding intoxicating hemp products from the Farm Bill definition of hemp would mean lawmakers could regulate them “the same as cannabis products” – at the state level, where many lawmakers already have passed bans or regulations.

“Closing the perceived loophole in the Farm Bill would create parity and facilitate state-level regulation, followed by eventual federal legalization of all THC products,” the USCC statement reads in part.

The Democratic Party-controlled Senate has yet to release full text of a proposed bill.

Synthetic THC question

Somewhere between preservation and prohibition is the position taken by the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH).

It is ATACH’s position that hemp product manufacturers have gone too far creating THC “alternatives” such as delta-8 THC, which exists naturally in the plant at low levels but is generally derived from CBD via a chemical process.

“We don’t think Congress legalized synthetic THC, and we don’t think Congress closed the door on states getting involved,” said Chris Lindsey, who lobbies Congress on behalf of ATACH.

“But we definitely think there’s nothing but confusion about these things.”

Passing Farm Bill ‘a tall order’

It remains an open question whether a divided Congress, with each major party controlling one chamber only by a small margin, will be able to pass any Farm Bill in an election year.

The 2018 Farm Bill originally expired in September 2023, with funding provisions extended as Congress endured leadership battles that sidelined lawmaking.

It’s also possible that vicious partisan squabbling will thwart efforts at passing the bill – something that could happen without hemp and marijuana ever entering the conversation – punting the Farm Bill to the next Congress seated after the presidential election.

“This Farm Bill is on life support as it is,” the Hemp Roundtable’s Miller noted Wednesday, prior to the Miller amendment. “There are the Democrats opposed on the House side, and there’s a good chunk of the Freedom Caucus that doesn’t like it either.”

“It’s going to be a tall order to get a Farm Bill passed this year.”



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