Bill Roark was quoted in the January 7, 2020 Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled, “Pennsylvania’s new hemp rules may hurt early farmers but boost the industry.” The online article can be found here. The contents of the article can be found below.
Written by Sam Wood January 7, 2020
Hemp could rocket to become one of Pennsylvania’s major cash crops under new regulations published last week by the state Department of Agriculture. At the same time, those new regulations could inadvertently crush small farmers who still are sitting on their 2019 hemp harvest.
Pioneering hemp farmers, who grew the crop under the state’s experimental pilot program, may find that their cannabis plants — now stored in barns and warehouses — may be too laden with the intoxicating substance THC to be approved for sale, legal experts said. Several thousands of acres of hemp were planted in Pennsylvania last year.
Under the state’s new standards and requirements, testing will be increased significantly for marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin.
The act, which is effective immediately, “represents a fundamental change in how the hemp industry is regulated in Pennsylvania,” said Bill Roark, an attorney who is cochair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Medical Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee.
According to the Department of Agriculture, hemp can be processed into thousands of products — including food, textiles, construction materials, oils, and the fashionable dietary supplement CBD. Analysts project that by 2025, hemp could become a $25 billion industry.
Farmers are looking at hemp as a lucrative crop. Where an acre of corn might generate $300 to $500 in profit, and tobacco $1,000 to $3,000, they expect some hemp varieties — those grown for CBD extraction — to fetch $10,000 or more.
By definition industrial hemp may contain only 0.3 percent THC, the intoxicating compound in marijuana. Smokable medical marijuana flower — when it’s available — typically contains between 7% and 35% THC.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will allow hemp producers some leeway, but not much. Any hemp containing over 0.5 percent THC must be destroyed.
Here’s where potential problems exist for last year’s hemp farmers.
Hemp grown in Pennsylvania last year was tested only for delta-9 THC, usually the most prevalent psychoactive cannabinoid in the plant. But in 2020, testing also will include THCA, a precursor compound that is converted to THC with the application of heat.
“A lot of growers produced plants where the delta-9 THC level was below 0.3, but the THCA level was well in excess, sometimes 1, 2, or 3 percent,” said Roark.
And that might explain why so many people who smoked hemp flower this past year reported getting high from it.
“They fixed that loophole, now I’m afraid that will render a lot of plants grown last year unusable,” Roark said. “There are barns and warehouses full of it. Some farmers have spent thousands of dollars growing it. By law, processors will have to reject the hemp because it will test ‘hot,’ that is, way above the acceptable 2020 levels.”
The vice president of Hoophouse, a Bucks County-based hemp grower and processor, said his company already has had to turn down a contract to process 80,000 pounds of hemp from an out-of-state producer. “It was over the THC limit so we had to refuse it,” said Matt Baxter. “So we’re aware that some farmers are having issues.”
Other than the new THC guidelines, most of the new regulations were greeted enthusiastically by Pennsylvania hemp experts.