Hemp farmers in the U.S. are no longer required to have their crops tested in Drug Enforcement Administration-registered laboratories, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials announced this week at a meeting in Arlington, Virginia.
Colorado officials are praising the decision, claiming that it will allow the hemp industry to thrive.
After receiving complaints from states and farmers that there aren't enough DEA labs to account for the quickly growing hemp industry, the USDA reached a deal with the DEA to remove the requirement, according to Hemp Industry Daily.
"Through these conversations, we have learned that these provisions will serve as a significant hindrance to the growth of the domestic hemp market at this nascent stage," the USDA said in a statement.
"For instance, we now better understand how the limited number of DEA-registered labs will hinder testing and better understand the associated costs with disposing of a product that contains over 0.3% THC could make entering the hemp market too risky," the USDA said.
Like marijuana, hemp comes from the cannabis plant, but unlike marijuana, it is non-intoxicating and contains less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The USDA said that it is still drafting a "final rule" for hemp production, so its decision to delay enforcement of the use of DEA-registered labs is temporary.
"Colorado is leading the way when it comes to hemp production and cultivation," Polis told reporters Thursday. "I'm relieved that the USDA and (Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue) are recognizing the concerns that Colorado raised in our comments on the interim final rule. This move will help create more job opportunities, will help our farmers and our economy."
Sal Pace, a board member for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit organization focused on marijuana policy, told The Pueblo Chieftain that the idea of the DEA regulating nonpsychoactive hemp "is simply absurd."
Hemp was removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act through the 2018 farm bill, and in 2019, there was more than quadruple the number of acres licensed in hemp compared to 2018, according to Forbes. Prior to the 2018 bill, farmers were only able to grow the crop for hemp research programs.
Hemp production is now legal in 46 states, while Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire and South Dakota still ban it.
Casey Leins is a staff writer for the Best States section of U.S. News & World Report, where she writes about innovative solutions to problems plaguing the states. She came to U.S. News as an intern in 2014, joined the News team as a web producer in 2015, and was part of the team that launched the first Best States ranking in 2017. She was selected to attend the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute workshop held by the Poynter Institute in 2017, and previously worked as a writer for the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Howard County Times. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at email@example.com.