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USDA Approves Hemp Plan for Minnesota, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the approval of several hemp production plans for Minnesota, Tennessee, and Puerto.

This brings the total number of hemp regulatory plans under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program to 53 approved plans across states, territories, and Indian tribes.

 “We thank USDA for their work on this new federal hemp program, and we are grateful they approved Minnesota’s plan,” said Thom Petersen, the Agriculture Commissioner of Minnesota.

He proceeded, “We look forward to continuing our dialog with USDA so we can ensure Minnesota’s hemp growers and processors are successful in this fledging industry.”

While it’s certainly a major step forward for Minnesota and Tennessee, this is also a huge victory for Puerto Rico as well. Puerto Rico is only the second territory to be approved for a hemp regulatory plan by the USDA.

Jennifer Aydin González Colón, the current resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, represents the territory in Congress and discussed her advocacy for other potential cannabis reform legislation in a recent press release. This reform includes preventing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from denying veterans a right to home loan benefits due to employment in a state-legal marijuana market.

Along with this, the USDA has signed off a number of hemp proposal plans over the last year.

The department said in a notice, “USDA continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian trbies.”

To review the submission and approval status of State and Tribal hemp production plans, you can visit the USDA webpage here.

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Even though the agency released an interim final rule for a domestic hemp production program in 2019, industry investors and lawmakers have expressed concerns about specific policies deemed excessively restrictive.

In response, the USDA announced in February that the department will lift two of the strict provisions viewed as problematic. These policies are primarily concerned with testing and disposal requirements. However, the department did not approve of the THC limit revision request, stating it’s a statutory issue that can’t be dealt with administratively.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on the other hand, is still working on developing regulations for CBD. The agency sent an update to Congress in March, explaining that they are actively exploring new ways to allow for marketing CBD as a dietary supplement as well as developing clear enforcement discretion guidance.

A public comment period was opened by the FDA so that individuals could submit feedback on CBD regulations.

In early July, the White House finalized a review of research protocols involving CBD and cannabis. It’s still unclear if this document will be released to the public.

The FDA also submitted a detailed report to Congress this month on the current state of the CBD marketplace. The document highlights the different studies performed by the agency on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products they have tested over the last 6 years.

And yet, even during the pandemic progress is being made.

Hemp industry leaders have recently requested Covid-19 relief loans for farmers throughout the country, and Congress granted the request in the most recent round of coronavirus legislation, despite efforts by the USDA to keep hemp farmers from being eligible for its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

The language to not reconsider the eligibility restriction was removed, proving to be yet another stride in the right direction for the hemp industry.

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