On July 28, the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research held a hearing to discuss ways in which the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill could improve the regulatory landscape for hemp and CBD producers. Congress passes a Farm Bill every five years – the 2014 Farm Bill lifted federal restrictions on the cultivation and production of hemp, and the 2018 Farm Bill authorized commercial production of hemp, subject to oversight by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, as discussed at length during the July 28 hearing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD as a food or beverage additive or as a dietary supplement – though it has approved one CBD-derived prescription drug for treating seizures. Despite a surge in hemp cultivation and production following the 2018 Farm Bill and a large market for CBD-based products, demand for hemp has not kept pace with production, as many companies are reluctant to enter the CBD market without clear regulatory guidance from the FDA.
Participants in the July 28 hearing discussed ways to address this regulatory uncertainty and other barriers to entry into the hemp and CBD marketplace. Both the House and Senate have introduced bills to permit the sale and marketing of CBD as a food additive and dietary supplement. Another bill introduced in February, the Hemp Advancement Act, was a key focus of the hearing. This bill includes among its key provisions increasing the THC threshold for hemp from .3% to 1%; eliminating the federal requirement that hemp sold in the U.S. be tested for potency by labs registered with the FDA, which do not exist in all states; and eliminating a ten-year waiting period for people with drug-related felony convictions seeking hemp production licenses. Other proposed inclusions in the 2023 Farm Bill discussed at the hearing are measures to lower fees for hemp sampling/testing and removing background check requirements for production licenses. Rural areas – where many hemp producers seek to operate – often lack facilities that process fingerprints, posing another barrier to market entry.
The Subcommittee hearing was led by a bipartisan collection of representatives, mainly from hemp-producing states, who share the goals of achieving greater regulatory certainty and market stability for the growing hemp industry. The proposals discussed could support rural agricultural economies and facilitate greater equity within the industry, and many lawmakers and market participants see the 2023 Farm Bill as a necessary next step in the development of the fast-growing hemp industry.