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Industrial Hemp

May 12, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Elena Bickell

Executive Summary

Hemp and marijuana products both are species of the cannabis plant, but hemp is typically distinguished by its lower concentration of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). In the United States, production of industrial hemp is allowed, but it is controlled under drug enforcement laws and requires a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency because of the THC content levels, which are the main psychoactive, or mood altering, ingredient of the plant. Currently,  the Missouri Department of Agriculture may ask a Missouri farmer to destroy their crop if their industrial hemp crop contains an average THC concentration by weight that exceeds 0.3%. In the 2022 Missouri General Assembly, SB 1235 was introduced to raise the allowable THC concentration to 1%. 

Highlights 

  • The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity while removing it from the list of controlled substances.
  • Classification of cannabis as either marijuana or industrial hemp is based on a threshold concentration of THC.
    • Current federal law in the U.S. uses 0.3% THC as the threshold to distinguish strains of hemp from marijuana and cultivars of hemp must have less than the threshold THC concentration to be grown under license in the states that permit hemp cultivation.
  • Although the federal law allows hemp production and is legal in 46 states, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire and South Dakota continue to ban production of the crop within their borders.

Limitations 

  • There is a potential of a hemp crop coming in at a THC concentration above the 0.3% threshold, even if it was grown to be below the legal threshold. That is because crops may increase in their THC content post-harvest. 
    • The differences in THC content post-harvest may originate from the timing of farming/processing, genetic make-up of plants, location, and more.
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