The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the final rule regulating the production of hemp in the USA on 15 January – more than a year after the publication of draft regulations.

Modifications to the final rule were based on public comments following the publication of the interim final rule (IFR) published in October 2019 and lessons learned during the 2020 growing season, according to USDA.

The final rule is available for viewing in the Federal Register and takes effect on 22 March 2021.

“USDA has taken information provided through three comment periods and from experiences over a growing season to develop regulations that meet Congressional intent while providing a fair, consistent, science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers,” said USDA marketing and regulatory programmes undersecretary Greg Ibach.

Key provisions of the final rule include licensing requirements; record-keeping requirements for maintaining information about the land where hemp is produced; procedures for testing the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration levels for hemp; procedures for disposing of non-compliant plants; compliance provisions; and procedures for handling violations.

The final rule had received a mixed reaction from industry stakeholders, according to Cosmetics Design Europe, with many welcoming the relaxed negligence standard (for THC content) while being less positive about the requirement for hemp to be tested at Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-certified labs.

“Although there are some positive aspects, this rule does not go far enough to protect farmers and support the growth of the hemp industry,”​ Asa Waldstein, owner of the regulatory consulting company Supplement Advisory Group and American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) Cannabis Committee chair, was quoted as saying.

The USDA’s publication of the IFR on 31 October 2019 had provided details on the process and criteria for review of plans that the organisation received from states and Indian tribes regarding the production of hemp. This had established a plan to monitor and regulate the production of hemp in those states or Indian tribes that did not have an approved state or tribal plan.

The IFR had taken effect immediately after publication and had provided a 60-day public comment period, which had later been extended by USDA.