US struggles to keep up as hemp industry grows

U.S. hemp production is soaring, but government oversight hasn’t kept up, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society. The industry is scrambling to find common ground between states, which each have a different set of rules for hemp growers and processors.

By allowing states to pilot hemp cultivation and commercialization programs, the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill kick-started production of the crop in the U.S. Although the fiber is used to produce textiles, building materials and plastics, most of the increased demand for hemp is driven by the compound cannabidiol (CBD), which is added to many products including gummies, vaping oil, food and cosmetics. Although CBD doesn’t produce a “high,” some people claim that the compound helps reduce anxiety and pain. Currently, national standards for hemp production, testing and labeling are lacking, Senior Editor Britt E. Erickson writes. Many states only require that the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in cannabis, be less than 0.3%. The lack of testing for CBD-containing products has resulted in inaccurate labeling and inconsistent quality, experts say.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with hemp industry groups to develop rules that regulate labeling standards and product testing. The agency plans to issue the regulations by the 2020 growing season. Also, the FDA has established a task force to examine regulatory options for compounds from hemp, but it is unclear when those regulations will be put into practice. Because some companies refuse to work with hemp industries, which they associate with illegal cannabis, advocates and organizations are hoping to bring about educational programs to dispel the notion that the production and transport of the material are illegal. Meanwhile, other advocates are working to help people recognize the benefits of hemp-derived products.

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The article, “US Hemp Boom Creates Chaos,” is freely available here.

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