It slipped under the radar on Thursday, but the United States Department of Agriculture just descheduled tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The USDA issued a bulletin on May 28 as a legal opinion for hemp production. It basically authorizes interstate delivery of hemp and legalized THC derived from hemp.
First, let's address the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp.
Up until December 2018, hemp was considered illegal like cannabis, but the 2018 Farm Bill legalized it. However, it still couldn't cross state lines. So, farmers in states where all forms of marijuana were illegal could grow hemp but then had few options to sell their crops. Farmers such as the ones in Kentucky who had pushed Senator Mitch McConnell to get the Farm Bill signed in the first place.
Now they can sell those crops to producers in other states or at least extract the hemp oil and sell that derivative product.
This solves the farmer problem for McConnell who was getting backed into a corner to figure out how to help these individuals sells their hemp crops. Happy Kentucky farmers means reelection.
The second item within this USDA bulletin is the subject of THC, which is the part of the cannabis plant that produces a psychoactive response in the brain or the feeling of getting high. The bulletin was in response to the 2018 Farm Bill and it read, "By amending the definition of marijuana to exclude hemp as defined in AMA 297A, Congress has removed hemp from schedule I and removed it entirely from the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). In other words, hemp is no longer a controlled substance. Also, by amending schedule I to exclude THC in hemp, Congress has likewise removed THC in hemp from the CSA."
Typically, cannabis plants can produce buds or flowers that have a high level of THC. Hemp plants tend to have very little THC in them. However, that doesn't mean there is no THC or that the hemp plants couldn't be modified to contain more THC.
Mark Singleton, the owner of Singleton Investments said, "This removes the argument of .3% THC." He is referring to the designation that hemp-derived CBD is legal as long as there is less than .3% THC. If hemp THC is legal then it doesn't matter whether it is .3% or not.
Let's step back for a moment and review this .3% line in the sand for cannabis.
The .3% level is a designation for which there is little information as to how that number was determined. It is often referred to but there is little documentation as to how regulators arrived at that level.
One historian said that at one time a study was done to determine at which point people got high when consuming cannabis and that .3% was the midrange and thus it stuck. Some people needed less and some didn't get buzzed until it was more than .3%, so the scientists just picked the middle point and called it a day. Random and possibly no longer true.
Anyway, there is some debate now over this USDA bulletin and whether the words "in hemp" mean THC can't be extracted from hemp because then it would no longer be in the plant. Several people have suggested that the phrase hemp-derived products covers hemp extractions even if it includes THC. It's a new bulletin and is sure to be tested very quickly.
Singleton believes that THC derived from hemp will quickly become popular and farmers will set up extraction facilities within their states and begin shipping across state lines. "It solves McConnell's problem. He's got the largest plant extraction facility in the entire country. Located in Kentucky," said Singleton, who says he's on McConnell's speed dial.
If hemp-derived THC is now legal and can cross state lines, it will be close to impossible for law enforcement to determine the difference between cannabis-derived THC and hemp-derived THC. This USDA bulletin could have effectively descheduled cannabis. Singleton believes Congress will be forced to act quickly to legalize cannabis since the USDA has jumped the gun.
In May, New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries and Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a bill, HR2843, in both Houses removing cannabis from the CSA and it included a social justice component. "I believe this bill will have at least 100 co-sponsors by June 15 and has the best chance to get passed," said Singleton. "If the Safe Banking Act doesn't get passed first, then I think this one will. I know the cannabis industry wants the States Rights Act passed, but it's going nowhere. These have the most support."
Indeed, no one in the cannabis industry expected the USDA to be the ones to legalize THC and it looks as if this is the next domino to fall.