The Future of HEMP - Reject USDA's Total THC Standard

The Future of HEMP - Reject USDA's Total THC Standard

December 3, 2019
Petition to
Hemp Farmers and 3 others
Signatures: 29Next Goal: 50
Support now

Why this petition matters

Started by Hemp Dig

The US hemp industry faces a crisis. It concerns the “Total THC Standard,” among other policies, adopted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its Interim Final Rule on hemp production. USDA published its Interim Final Rule on October 31, 2019, to implement the federal Farm Bill of 2018. This petition addresses USDA’s Total THC Standard, the negative implications of which puts hemp farmers in the crosshairs of the DEA. Hemp Dig urges everyone to sign this petition, which we will file with USDA.
USDA’s “Total THC Standard” seriously threatens the well-being of the hemp industry.
Congress defined “hemp” in the Farm Bill as the cannabis plant, including all derivatives and cannabinoids, to include hemp products, with a concentration of no more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis. Cannabis that exceeds this 0.3% threshold is considered marijuana, still an illegal Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
USDA’s Total THC Standard requires that hemp samples be collected pre-harvest and laboratory-tested to determine not only the level of THC in each sample, but also the level of tetrahydrocannabinolic-acid (THCA). Laboratories must add THC and THCA together to calculate “Total THC.”
Laboratories next must report whether the Total THC of any sample exceeds the Farm Bill’s 0.3% THC threshold. If so, this is “conclusive evidence” that the whole lot (i.e., the contiguous field or greenhouse) “represented by the sample” is marijuana. The entire crop must then be destroyed.
USDA’s Total THC Standard is outrageous. It may also violate the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill does not mention THCA, which is not contained in THC. Rather, when THCA is heated, a chemical reaction known as “decarboxylation” converts at least some THCA to THC.
USDA based its Total THC Standard on this chemical reaction and a vague reference in the Farm Bill, requiring THC levels to be measured “using post-decarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods” of testing. Thus, according to USDA, pre-harvest hemp samples must be tested using methods “where the total THC concentration level reported accounts for the conversion” of THCA into THC.
However, the vast majority of hemp is processed as biomass to extract CBD. CBD is subject to the same requirements as any other hemp product, including the definition of hemp and the 0.3% THC threshold in the Farm Bill. Accordingly, the THCA levels found in pre-harvest hemp samples, and thus the total THC, will not be representative of either the hemp lot from which such samples are collected, or the CBD produced from such hemp and marketed for consumption.

Plus, only a limited amount of hemp is smoked or vaped. The THCA in this hemp is heated, of course, but its decarboxylation and THC conversion rates vary widely, with most “Total THC” being lost due to thermal decomposition or sidestream smoke. Once more, the THCA levels found in laboratory-tested hemp samples will be unrepresentative of the hemp actually being consumed.
Even if technically permitted by the Farm Bill, few hemp strains presently available can satisfy USDA’s Total THC Standard. Only one or two large corporations are known to possess this technology. They have thus been granted a huge, unfair competitive advantage and lack any incentive to make such hemp strains available, at least at affordable prices, to the many farmers hoping to participate in the upcoming growing season.
It has already proven difficult to satisfy the Farm Bill’s 0.3% THC threshold, which is itself far too low. Satisfying this threshold while including THCA will be extremely difficult if not impossible.
Notably, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeffrey Merkley, who helped author the Farm Bill, wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on November 20, 2019. They explained that because the Farm Bill “allows for flexibility in testing methods by allowing ‘other similarly reliable methods," USDA should “allow testing for delta-9 THC using methods that do not involve the application of heat or decarboxylation, and to remove all requirements for converting THCA into THC.”
In conclusion, if USDA’s Total THC Standard remains in place, much of what would have qualified as hemp pursuant to the Farm Bill will almost certainly be deemed marijuana. This cannot be what was intended by Congress when it removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the CSA.
Therefore, every hemp producer, industry representative and concerned consumer is urged to sign this petition. USDA must eliminate or at least significantly revise its Total THC Standard.
Demand that USDA act immediately, given the urgency of this issue.
We urge everyone to submit their own well-reasoned comments to USDA describing the negative impact of the Total THC Standard and the Interim Final Rule generally, including possible solutions. Comments can be filed directly through USDA’s website portal (

Support now
Signatures: 29Next Goal: 50
Support now

Decision Makers