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Massachusetts to allot 70K acres for cannabis, hemp production

Massachusetts to allot 70K acres for cannabis, hemp production

Massachusetts hemp gets ok for land use

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources released updated guidance on Wednesday making way for more than 70,000 acres belonging to its Agricultural Preservation Restriction and Farm Viability Enhancement programs to be used to grow cannabis and hemp.

The APR program was established in 1977 and offers to pay farmland owners the difference between fair market value and the agricultural value of their farms in exchange for permanent deed restrictions which preserve farmland for agricultural use in the future, according to the department website.

The Farm Viability Enhancement Program, in turn, provides business and technical assistance to established farmers through grant funding, in exchange for signing an agricultural covenant on the farm property to keep it in agricultural use for a five-, 10- or 15-year term, per the state website.

Under the new guidance released last week, both hemp and cannabis production will now be allowed on APR and Farm Viability Enhancement lands, so long as the land in question isn’t federally funded, because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.

Although the DAR did not say how many APR lands are beholden to federal restrictions, the guidance noted nearly all recently acquired APRs were purchased with federal financing.

Still, the new guidance effectively opens options for APR farmers interested in adding or transitioning to the cannabis and hemp markets.

“The department looks forward to working with APR and Agricultural Covenant landowners and the farming community on the implementation of this new interpretation and has prepared the following guidance,” the department said in its announcement.

Vermont Joins List of States to Ban Delta-8 THC

Vermont Joins List of States to Ban Delta-8 THC

Delta 8 THC banned in Vermont
Vermont regulators have officially categorized hemp-based Delta-8 THC products as illegal under state law.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Farms, and Markets (AAFM) informed all registered hemp cultivators that Delta-8 THC products are not regarded as legal hemp products in an email sent out last Friday, April 23.

With this statute, Vermont joins 12 other states that have categorized the manufacturing and sale of Delta-8 THC products as illegal under state law; Delta-8 THC has also been banned in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island, and Utah.

On their website, Vermont AAFM clarifies the state’s position further by acknowledging that hemp plants naturally produce Delta-8 THC in trace amounts. However, products with intoxicating levels of the cannabinoid are created using isomerization, which synthetically converts CBD to THC.

The Vermont Hemp Rules state that, “A processor shall not use synthetic cannabinoids in the production of any hemp product or hemp-infused product” (6.3). With this rule, the manufacturing, labeling, or sale of any Delta-8 product in the state of Vermont would violate state law. As such, anyone who distributes, uses, or possesses one of these products may face criminal penalties in the state.

Many CBD retailers have seen great financial gains due to the recent proliferation of Delta-8 throughout the states. This clarification may heavily impact their newfound revenues.

Meanwhile, the hemp industry in Alabama recently praised lawmakers there after they pulled an amendment proposal that would have categorized Delta-8 THC and Delta-10 THC as controlled substances.

Thailand in green rush as government pushes Thai cannabis as cash crop

Thailand in green rush as government pushes Thai cannabis as cash crop

Thailand cannabis could become a major economy booster

BURIRAM, Thailand (Reuters) – Thais flocked to a cannabis exhibition as interest and demand in the plant surges after the government unlocked hemp use in food and cosmetics in the latest move to promote a new cash crop.

The government held a convention in Buriram province in northeastern Thailand over the weekend to educate the public on cannabis use and promote businesses. People were able to taste hemp-based noodles, ice-cream and drinks.

Hemp plants are a variety of cannabis that have higher concentrations of CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“Ganja (marijuana) is the rising star to bring our good quality of lives and money back in our purses as good (economy) as before and even better,” said Withid Sarideechaikoo, director of Buriram public health and organiser of the Cannabis 360° event, referring to the plant’s local name.

“It will bring good quality of lives to us and to the country.”

Thailand has been pushing cannabis as a cash crop and state drug maker the Government Pharmaceutical Organization has said it would buy a kilogram of cannabis with 12% CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient, for 45,000 baht ($1,500).

A group of seven individuals could form a village enterprise and seek government permission to grow hemp.

Thailand, which has a tradition of using cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue, legalised marijuana for medical use and research in 2017 to boost agricultural income.

“It is in Thais’ mindset that delicious noodle soup with beef should added with ganja,” said noodle shop owner Sitthichan Wutthiphonkun.

“This thing (cannabis) will not only boost our restaurant business, but it will drive the whole economy. People will want to try it from food to cosmetics.”

(Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng, editing by Ed Osmond)

Original story from Yahoo Finance

Will 2021 be another struggling year for the hemp industry?

Will 2021 be another struggling year for the hemp industry?

The legal hemp industry has had a turbulent couple of years.
2019 was the first full year that the legal hemp industry operated in the United States, and it was a slow start. 2020 was a difficult year for just about everybody, the hemp industry included.

The question many are now asking is, will 2021 be the year that the hemp industry begins to thrive, or is it already dying?

The boom of Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, in the United States might lead some to believe that with so much publicity and demand for CBD products (which are made from hemp), the industry would be thriving. But it isn’t that simple.

In fact, in 2020 several states produced less than 40% of the acres that were licensed for hemp production by their respective states.

In a collection of hemp industry data collected by Hemp Grower they found that numerous states, some being licensed to produce thousands of acres of hemp, had only produced a fraction of what they were allotted. Arizona for example, planted just 1,130 acres, or 3.3%, of the 34,480 acres that were licensed. The state had the largest disparity out of any other in the country.

Reasons for disparities

A problem that was found in just about every state that vastly underproduced hemp had to do with the licensing processes and fees. In Arizona, no matter how many acres a hemp farmer is planning to use, they pay the same $1,000 fee. If one farmer only has 10 acres, and another has 2,000 they pay the same exact fee.

This led to many traditional row crop farmers with a lot of land to claim all of it for hemp, despite only using a fraction of the land to actually produce hemp. In other words, a large scale farmer that claimed 5,000 acres for hemp production, may only use 50 acres to grow hemp while the rest is kept for traditional crops, leading to large discrepancies in the data collection for the state.

Additionally, Arizona state inspection fees for collecting samples include a $25 per acre fee up to the first 100 acres, and then $5 an acre beyond that. Brian McGrew, the industrial hemp program manager in Arizona says that several other factors also figure into acres planted, including weather trends during growing seasons.

“There were a lot of things that did impact 2020,” McGrew says. “It actually is probably the hottest and driest year we had on record. So that really did affect not only with hemp but a lot of other industries dealing with that.” For other states, licensing was also an inhibitor.

Hemp industry licensing problems

Minnesota hemp growers planted roughly 4,700 acres, or 56% of the projected 8,400 acres that were licensed, according to Anthony Cortilet, the state’s industrial hemp program supervisor. During the licensing process, Minnesota registers farmers by the number of individual grow locations, no matter how big or small, he says. The fee is $400 for the hemp grower license at one location, and $250 for each additional grow location.

The $400 licensing fee includes the delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) sampling and testing of one variety of hemp, but the department of agriculture collects $125 for each additional variety a grower cultivates in his or her field, which goes toward paying the laboratory costs, Cortilet says.

In Tennessee, hemp growers planted 4,836 acres in 2020, or 30.8% of the 15,722 acres that were licensed. The state department of agriculture has a staggered licensing fee system, like Minnesota, but the differences in costs are minimized to $50 increments: 5 acres or fewer is $250; between 5 and 20 acres is $300; and 20-plus acres is $350.

Each state’s hemp industry spokespeople have their reasons for the disparities, mainly that farmers and growers have different business plans and business models, while others simply underestimate the cost of hemp production, but don’t realize the costs until they have already paid for the land use.

Is the hemp industry already dying?

The current reality of the legal hemp industry may not seem very promising. In another study conducted by Hemp Benchmarks that utilizes the most current and available data on 2020 and 2019 hemp production, the results were scary.

The reports underscore the contraction that occurred in the hemp industry in 2020. For example, the amount of acreage licensed for hemp in the U.S. reached just over 400,000 in 2020, down by over 30% from roughly 590,000 acres licensed in 2019.

Additionally, Hemp Benchmarks estimated that only 35-40% of acreage licensed for hemp was actually planted in 2020, or between 140,000 to 160,000 acres. With the assumption that 85% of all U.S. acreage was for CBD or other cannabinoid production, that amounts to between 119,000 and 136,000 planted acres devoted just to CBD or other cannabinoid hemp. Their initial estimate for acreage planted with CBD or other cannabinoid hemp in 2020 is roughly half of their estimated planted acreage for 2019.

To summarize their reporting, CBD hemp production was nearly halved in 2020, while overall hemp production dropped by 30%. But it isn’t just because farmers are growing less hemp.

The issue of hot hemp

A consistent problem that has plagued the legal hemp industry is hemp produced with a THC content over .3%, commonly known throughout the community as “hot” hemp. Farmers and growers across the country have long been asking the federal government to adjust the THC requirement for hemp to be at least 1%. As such a low THC content could not realistically produce a psychoactive high, the argument is that by raising the limit slightly, more farmers would be able to produce passable hemp.

And until the majority of farmers secure trustworthy hemp genetics or the laws change, these problems will continue.

A hemp farmer in Colorado had to completely destroy 80 acres of hemp that had THC levels that were slightly above the requirement. His plants tested at .47%. That is just .17% above the legal limit, but all of his plants had to be destroyed or he risked thousands of dollars in fines. In the eyes of the government he had 80 acres of psychoactive, illegal cannabis despite being just a fraction of a percent over the limit.

For that one farmer, hot hemp means thousands of dollars flushed down the drain after months of hard labor producing flowering hemp plants or biomass. The same problem plagues farmers across the country, leading many to either cut back their production to save in the case of hot hemp issues, or stop production all together.

These factors combined have caused the shrinkage of the legal hemp industry that we saw in 2020, and what we will likely continue to see through 2021. However there is a silver lining to the trimming down of the hemp industry.

Less hemp, but higher quality

While millions of pounds of hemp were lost to the trash heap because of high THC levels in 2020, and thousands of farmers cut back their production or left the industry all together, the cream has begun to rise to the top. Hemp farmers and producers with high quality genetics, that test consistently at .3% or lower, while also enhancing the natural cannabinoids in the plant like CBD, CBG and CBN have become the go-to suppliers for serious farmers across the country.

One cannabinoid in particular exploded in 2020, and it wasn’t CBD. Delta-8 THC, the close relative to Delta-9 THC which is the main psychoactive cannabinoid bred in cannabis, was unwittingly legalized along with hemp through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Those who have tried Delta-8 THC claim that is has comparative effects to Delta-9 THC, although subdued. Advocates for D8 THC claim it is the best, legal alternative to D9 THC. This is sparking another revolution in the hemp industry as growers race to produce varietals with the highest Delta-8 THC content possible.

At the same time, the consumer’s palate is evolving to desire more complex terpene and cannabinoid profiles in their cannabis and hemp products. The increase in demand for new hemp products has the chance to give the industry a big boost in 2021.

Overall, the trend of the hemp of the industry shows a dip in 2020 that has many questioning if 2021 will be a rebound year or just a continuation. To insert a little opinion; the cannabis industry faced similar issues as it matured, as consumers demanded higher quality product and cheap producers were weeded out…pun intended.

Despite the hit that the legal hemp industry took in 2020, the demand for CBD products doesn’t appear to be slowing, and the addition of new cannabinoid-rich hemp varietals and products will bring more attention to the plant and its benefits. More research will be done this year than last year, and more people will become educated about hemp products than ever before.

Suffice to say the legal hemp industry isn’t going anywhere in 2021, if not slowly upward.

USDA Releases Final Ruling on Hemp

USDA Releases Final Ruling on Hemp

USDA final ruling on hemp has been released

From sampling to THC testing, here’s a rundown on how the final rule, which takes effect in March, compares to current regulations.

On Jan. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released a final rule on hemp based on its previous set of regulations that drew public comments from nearly 6,000 people.

The latest set of regulations makes several highly requested changes to the interim final rule (IFR) that are seen as favorable to both hemp producers and regulators.

Still, contentious aspects of the IFR remain, but some industry members are hopeful there is still time to amend them.

Sampling

The final rule made several changes to sampling that should reduce burdens on both growers and regulators.

First, the rule increased the sampling window, which is currently 15 days. Samples for testing now need to be taken up to 30 days before a farmer plans to harvest, giving regulators more time to get into fields. Many stated in public comments that 15 days was far too little time to collect an appropriate amount of samples from each producer in the state.

The rule also slightly modified from where on the plant samples need to be taken. While the IFR required collecting a sample from the top third portion of the plant, the final rule now states samples should be taken “approximately five to eight inches from the ‘main stem’ (that includes the leaves and flowers), ‘terminal bud’ (that occurs at the end of a stem), or ‘central cola’ (cut stem that could develop into a bud) of the flowering top of the plant.”

Andrea Hope J. Steel, the director at Coats Rose P.C. and co-leader of the law firm’s Cannabis Business Law group, tells Hemp Grower this provision will allow sampling agents to collect more stem and leaf material than previously allowed.

That will help reduce instances of hot crops,” Steel says. Stems and leaves typically contain lower levels of cannabinoids—and specific to this issue, of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—than the flowers.

However, Graff says this still requires sampling from primarily floral material despite comments on the IFR that requested switching to a whole-plant sampling approach.

The final rule dedicates a significant portion of its 300 pages to addressing and responding to the most highly requested comments, including those on sampling.

“Even though many commenters felt that whole plant sampling should be allowed, AMS is of the opinion that since THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] is concentrated in the flower material of the plant, the flower material is more appropriate to test than the entire plant,” the final rule states.

Perhaps most significantly, the final rule has changed sampling protocol from collecting a “representative sample of every lot [growers] plan to harvest” using specific methodology, according to the IFR, to allowing states and tribes to implement a more “performance-based” method.

The AMS says these performance-based sampling protocols may take into account:

  • seed certification processes (or other processes that identify varieties that have consistently produced compliant hemp plants);
  • whether the producer is conducting research on hemp at an institution of higher learning or that is funded by a federal, state or tribal government;
  • whether a producer has consistently produced compliant hemp plants over an extended period of time;
  • whether a producer is growing “immature” hemp, such as seedlings, clones, microgreens or other non-flowering cannabis, that does not reach the flowering stage;
  • other similar factors.

“Flexibilities afforded to States and Indian Tribes developing their own hemp production plans will allow them to incorporate best practices, as those change and develop over time. For example, States and Indian Tribes can adapt field-walking patterns to various sized and shaped hemp grower operations,” the final rule states. “AMS believes that a national standard would be difficult to consistently apply given the various grower operations and that standard ‘zig-zag,’ or letters ‘M’ or ‘Z’ walk patterns may not be feasible for sample collection of micro-acreage producers, very large scale producers or those with polygonal hemp lots.”

States will need to include details of their performance-based sampling methods in their hemp plans, which the USDA must approve. (An updated guide on sampling has been published on the AMS website.)

Testing

While the final rule implemented generally positive sampling changes for the industry, THC testing will, for the most part, remain burdensome. 

The final rule retains that hemp must remain below 0.3% total THC on a dry-weight basis. Total THC is defined as the sum of the delta-9 THC and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). On its own, THCA does not produce psychoactive effects like delta-9 THC, but it can be converted to THC through decarboxylation, which is the process required for testing.

While increasing that limit was one of the most highly requested changes in public comments, the USDA was unable to do so, as that limit was written into law in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill). It’s notable that total THC, however, was not written into the farm bill—that bill defines hemp only by delta-9-THC levels. In its final rule (as well as the IFR), the USDA interprets the language of the farm bill to mean that total THC must be tested.

However, legislation has been introduced in both Kentucky and at the federal level by Sen. Rand Paul to amend that limit to 1%, which would quell the total THC versus delta-9-THC debate.

Options for Hot Hemp

If hemp does test “hot” above the 0.3% THC limit, the final rule has given producers additional options for disposal beyond the total destruction written into the IFR.

States now have several options for more productive and less wasteful methods of disposal that can result in useful soil amendments. Those include:

  • plowing under
  • mulching/composting the hemp
  • disking
  • shredding the biomass with a bush mower or chopper.

Producers may also bury or burn their hot hemp. (The AMS implemented these additional options in early 2020, but they were not written into the IFR.)

The final rule also implements a brand-new option for hot crops: remediation.

The rule states producers can remediate their material by “removing and destroying flower material, while retaining stalk, stems, leaf material, and seeds.” Producers may also shred the entire plant to create a “biomass-like material” and then retest it for compliance.

Producers also no longer need to use a DEA-registered distributor or law enforcement to dispose of hot hemp.

Read the Full Story from Hemp Grower Magazine

Virginia Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana In 2021

Virginia Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana In 2021

Virginia cannabis legalization bill is introduced for 2021

A Virginia lawmaker has filed a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state.

The move comes one month after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) included provisions to lay the groundwork for cannabis legalization in a budget proposal that also calls for millions of dollars to support expungements.

The bill from Del. Steve Heretick (D) is the first of what could be several proposals to end marijuana prohibition that the legislature sees this session.

The new legislation would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis. It calls for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to regulate the marijuana program, as it currently does for hemp.

Adults could also grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal use under the bill.

“This bill is built upon the lessons of other states throughout the country which have enacted similar reforms,” Heretick said in a press release.

A 9.6 percent tax would be imposed on cannabis sales under the bill, which was first reported by WTKR-TV, though local jurisdictions could tack on their own taxes for a maximum total of 15 percent. The municipalities would also be allowed to dictate whether marijuana businesses can operate in their area.

Most of the tax revenue from cannabis would go to the state’s general fund (67 percent) while the remaining 33 percent would be invested in a fund meant to promote public education about marijuana.

“With the support of Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, and a growing consensus of bipartisan support from legislators and local leaders around the Commonwealth, and now Virginia Governor Northam and key members of his administration, this is legislation which has now matured for enactment,” Heretick said. “I look forward to a robust and inclusive conversation about the manner in which Virginia will act on this legislation this year.”

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