The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) removed hemp and its derivatives from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and provided a detailed framework for the cultivation of hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill also gave the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory authority over hemp cultivation at the federal level, although states have the option to maintain primary regulatory authority over the crop cultivated within their borders by submitting a plan to the USDA. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) submitted Oregon’s Hemp Plan on August 14, 2020, not long before the October 31, 2020 deadline required by the 2018 Farm Bill.
The ODA is the primary regulator of hemp in Oregon, one of the first states to allow the production of industrial hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill. For a primer on Oregon hemp law, see Hemp CBD Across State Lines: Oregon, which is part of our 50-state series on the rules and regulations governing hemp.
The ODA has now withdrawn the Hemp Plan it submitted to the USDA in a letter to the USDA Secretary, Sonny Perdue. The letter, as the ODA explains, “is in response to the passage of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act. President Trump signed the act on October 1, 2020. Section 122 extends the 2014 Farm Bill’s Hemp Pilot Program through September 30, 2021.” This means that the next growing season in Oregon will proceed under the 2014 Farm Bill and not the Hemp Plan.
Why did the ODA do this? The ODA states that withdrawal will give it time to work to resolve some of the “issues and concerns” presented in the USDA’s interim final rules and seek legislative guidance. What might those “issues and concerns” be? See the following:
Critically, the ODA’s withdrawal of the Hemp Plan does not change Oregon’s current laws and regulations governing hemp. So the rule effective January 1, 2020 requiring the pre-harvest testing of THC for “total THC” remains in effect. Though, to be sure, Oregon already adopted a total THC testing requirement as Nathalie Bougenies explained back in June 2019: Oregon Hemp: ODA’s New “Total THC” Standard is a KEY Operations and Contract Issue. Moreover, although the ODA will not be adopting the proposed rules filed in August 2020 that concern the Hemp Plan, the ODA will adopt the rules and regulations that “were for housekeeping purposes” effective as of January 1, 2021.
So for now, Oregon hemp is in a “the more things change the more they stay the same” situation with regards to hemp. For hemp producers, processors, and others, the ODA’s decision to withdraw the Hemp Plan should provide consistency between this year’s growing and harvest season the 2021 hemp growing and harvest season. On balance, that’s a good thing.