Vibe Check: What does the term "hemp" mean to you?

New video – How we sow dual purpose hemp

This week we show you how we are direct seeding hemp this season with a Cole Planet Jr. hand push seeder. Chris explains how the seeder works and does a demonstration of the seeder in operation. Check back next week for the results!

More videos:

Growing hemp for grain

What hemp means for the local economy

New rules this October create more challenges for CBD growers

As you may already know, the USDA is in the process of instituting Interim Final Rules for hemp production in the United States. In a little over 5 months, the rules for hemp production in Illinois will change which means it time for a Vibe Check!

This week, we are going to focus on what the USDA rules say about testing and THC limits. You may have heard that they will be more strict than what we have here in Illinois right now. These two sentences say it all:

The THC concentration of all hemp must meet the acceptable hemp THC level. Samples must be tested using post-decarboxylation or other similarly reliable analytical methods where the total THC concentration level reported accounts for the conversion of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) into THC.

Vibe Check

To understand why this is such a critical change for CBD growers in Illinois, you have to know a few things:

  • Hemp produces at least 113 cannabinoids, two of which are THCa and Δ⁹ THC. As of right now Illinois only counts Δ⁹ THC and disregards THCa, but the new rules require accounting for both.

  • THCa is a non-intoxicating substance until it is converted by heat (at around 88% efficiency) into Δ⁹ THC which can be psychoactive or intoxicating.

  • Most varieties of hemp are bred to produce low levels of THCa and high levels of CBDa.

  • However, hemp always produces these cannabinoids in relation to each other. Most hemp produces CBDa to THCa at a ratio of around 30:1.

That’s why you see a ratio reported on a Certificate of Analysis(COA) from a testing lab. Let’s look at some recent COAs of smokeable CBD hemp products sold nationally by a well known vendor. Note the ratio of CBD to THC in each of these samples is listed at the bottom of the COA.

White Rabbit
Download PDF • 527KB
Special Sauce
Download PDF • 404KB
Download PDF • 474KB
Hawaiian Haze
Download PDF • 471KB
Suver Haze
Download PDF • 410KB
Bubba Kush
Download PDF • 462KB
Download PDF • 405KB
Cherry Wine 2
Download PDF • 406KB
Sour Space Candy
Download PDF • 477KB
Download PDF • 407KB

Notice anything else? Every single one of these products contains greater than 0.3% THC if you account for the conversion of THCa into Δ⁹ THC. As of October 31st, 2020, all of these products exceed the acceptable hemp THC level.

Thankfully, because they were produced under the old 2014 Farm Bill rules, vendors will be able to continue to sell these products until they are exhausted even after 10/31/20. What they won’t be able to do though, is produce more of the same.

What is going to happen?

Short term, CBD growers will have to work even harder to stay compliant in the by harvesting before the plant can produce enough cannabinoids to exceed the limit or selecting strains that won’t produce more than 0.3% total THC at full maturity. Both of these strategies limit the % of CBD that a grower can lawfully produce.

Long term, CBD growers will have to rapidly advance breeding efforts in an attempt to overcome the ~30:1 ratio that almost every variety of CBD hemp seems to want to express and diversify their cannabinoid production operations to include lesser-known cannabinoids like CBG which have more favorable THC ratios.

Our Latest Sponsor Davis Farms

Lucky for you, our latest sponsor Davis Farms has been diligently working on breeding federally compliant varieties of CBD hemp and is offering all IHGA members a discount on their purchases.

Established in 2015 Davis Farms’ hemp breeding program has focused entirely on varieties with a total THC content of less than 0.3% at full maturity. They have six truly USDA compliant and field tested CBD varieties with consistent CBD to THC ratios above 30:1.

Davis Farms invites you to look at their Certificates of Analysis and compare them to any seed on the market. Visit their website and contact them directly to ask any questions.

Can we change the rules?

Over 4,600 comments were submitted to the USDA, many were about increasing the acceptable THC level from 0.3% to 1.0%. The USDA dismissed the subject by asserting that the definition of hemp as having not more than 0.3% Δ⁹ THC is a statutory issue that must be resolved by Congress and cannot be changed through regulation.

The 0.3% THC limit being part of the legal definition of hemp in the United States is completely arbitrary. Ernest Small, the scientist who initially did the research in which 0.3% THC is first used as a means of classification will tell you he chose it arbitrarily and that it shouldn’t be used as a guideline!

It’s up to all of us to continue to advocate for a change to the definition of the term hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill expires in 2023. It is literally our job to redefine hemp over the next few years.

What does the term “hemp” mean to you?

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