The U.S. Hemp Authority in late February announced the release of its newest Certification Standard, version 3.0.
The revised version reflects the organization’s efforts to continually improve by applying lessons learned about the new industry and significant public input.
The changes from versions 2.0 to 3.0 help clarify the expectations intended for the program’s framers, with the added insight of another year of experience gained by the industry and new regulations promulgated by the USDA. This annual recertification program assures that all certified organizations have met their revised requirements.
“The U.S. Hemp Authority’s revised certification standards are a result of public and industry feedback,” The revisions seek to streamline the process while still providing high standards, best practices, and self-regulation for ingredient transparency and truth in labeling.” U.S. Hemp Authority President Dr. Marielle Weintraub said in a press release.
Changes in the updated version include glossary revisions to remove terms no longer included in the rest of the text, as well as to adjust some definitions, most notably those of “Broad Spectrum” and “Full Spectrum.” Requirements around current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) and government regulations relating thereto are now referenced in the Standard, but the explicit details of applicable CFR sections are not spelled out. Explicit analytical protocols have been specified for ingredients and products that are included in goods certified under the program. And rules around labeling of certified products have been updated to heed regulatory, industry, and consumer concerns related to content, formulation, and clarity of messaging (truth in labeling), among other revisions.
U.S. Hemp Authority Certification helps farmers, product manufacturers, brand owners, and retailers secure mainstream market share by appealing to consumer and trade concerns about the veracity of product claims and serves to legitimize the evolving Hemp/CBD consumer product category.
The U.S. Hemp Authority is a tax-exempt 501(c)(6) that is independent of all other hemp organizations and companies, and is neither a governmental body nor a regulatory agency. Initially funded by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and joined by trade organizations such as the Hemp Industries Association, industry-leading firms, testing laboratories, agronomists and quality assessors, the certification provides comprehensive guidance for growers, processors/manufacturers, and brand owners of ingestible and cosmetic hemp products. Participants are licensed to use the Certified Seal of the U.S. Hemp Authority after meeting stringent self-regulatory standards, passing an independent third-party audit from FoodChain ID and entering into a licensing agreement. The group released its first Guidance Plan in 2018 with version 2 following in 2019.
(NOTE: HIA and Joy Beckerman emailed for comment)
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture officially announced its support of raising the THC limit in hemp from 0.3% to 1%, during its winter meeting in February.
The news is welcomed by hemp growers, industry advocates and CBD manufacturers across the country — but at this point, it’s largely ceremonial, as the highly restrictive 0.3% THC cap will remain the national standard until the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with the blessing of the DEA, allows a major rule change.
Nonetheless, the NASDA’s support shows a willingness among government regulators to reform hemp rules that are most detrimental to farmers.
According to a backgrounder for the 2021 NASDA Winter Policy Conference, up to 40% of test results show that hemp samples exceed 0.3% THC in the United States, with currently available genetics.
“With wider cannabis legalization looming nationwide, the current framework puts hemp farmers at the distinct disadvantage of stricter regulation than establishments growing high THC cannabis,” the backgrounder said. “Hemp farmers deserve reasonable policy and support that enables them to bring their crops to market.”
Furthermore — and entirely obvious to anybody even slightly familiar with marijuana — the backgrounder suggests that cannabis plants with a THC concentration of 1% do not pose a significant risk of diversion into the illicit market.
“This is still an upcoming industry that can benefit from greater flexibility to thrive,” NASDA senior director of public policy RJ Karney told Hemp Industry Daily. “By expanding the federal definition to less than or equal to 1% THC in dry-matter hemp, we can give farmers more certainty that their crops will be able to make it to market.”
The NASDA represents elected and appointed ag department officials in all 50 states and four U.S. territories.
However, even if it’s not solved through legislation, the issue with higher-than-legal THC levels may be a relatively short-lived challenge for hemp farmers. Genetic experimentation and breeding programs could eventually give growers more control over cannabinoid levels.
“One of the big problems for hemp farmers is crops go hot, which means they go over 0.3% THC. That’s a huge problem, especially for farmers in hotter temperatures in the south,” said Trevor Yahn-Grode, a data analyst with New Frontier Data. “And that is something we should have pretty good control of over the next five to 10 years as cultivars start to get regionalized and better understood.”
— Garrett Rudolph