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Proposed Legislation Would Allow for Higher THC Levels in Hemp Products

Image of hemp growing in Maryland by Edwin Remsberg
Image of hemp growing in Maryland by Edwin Remsberg

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The Maryland General Assembly currently has a bill before it which would all for products made from industrial hemp to contain 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration on a dry weight basis. This would be up from the current limit of THC, which cannot exceed 0.3 percent concentration on a dry weight basis. As we will discuss, while this change in the law could potentially create some issues for Maryland growers, it may also create other opportunities. The proposed legislation is Senate Bill 1006 (SB1006).

2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production under federal law, and allowed for more producers to participate in its production. With the changes made, the 2018 Farm Bill removed from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act any hemp that containing less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. This change also removed hemp products containing less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis from the Controlled Substance Act. The 2018 Farm Bill also allowed for states and tribal governments to develop state and tribal plans allowing for the production of hemp. These plans must contain provisions for testing to ensure that hemp has less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis.

SB 1006

SB1006 would leave intact the current definition of hemp required under federal law. Maryland growers would still have to produce hemp containing less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. The change would be in the definition of hemp products, allowing for products containing less than 1 percent on a dry weight basis. If a product contains more than 1 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis, then the manufacturer can dilute that product to an allowable concentration at an independent laboratory. Additionally, SB 1006 would require independent laboratory testing to ensure that the product is meeting applicable safety standards.

Image of hemp plants by Jessica Hyde
Image of hemp plants by Jessica Hyde

SB 1006 potentially creates a few issues with existing laws. Looking at the 2018 Farm Bill, SB 1006 would allow products on the market exceeding the levels set by the 2018 Farm Bill. Products produced in Maryland under this law would only be allowed for sale in Maryland, and not shipped to other states since they would be considered a controlled substance and illegal under federal law. On the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only considers hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil to be generally safe for human consumption.

Under state law, the legislation appears to create a loophole within the existing structures for regulating hemp products and medical cannabis products in Maryland. The state would need to develop a new regulatory framework and testing requirements just to get these products available to the market in Maryland. With FDA only having limited uses considered generally safe for human consumption and no uses approved for animal feed or veterinary use, Maryland would have to develop a framework to ensure these products are put on the market and are safe for use. At the time of this writing, the bill has passed the state House with amendments and is back in the Senate for review. You can follow the bill’s progress here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and should not be construed to represent any official USDA or U.S. Government determination or policy.

This work is also supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, grant no. 2021-68006-33894/project accession no. 1025097, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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