Why 0.3% Delta-9 THC?

Why 0.3% Delta-9 THC?

Why 0.3%? 

Where did the 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold actually come from?

Is it backed by science? Yes and no. The 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold does indeed originally come from a scientific study. The 1976 study "A Practical and Natural Taxonomy for Cannabis” by Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist. This study sought, for its own purposes, to delineate between “psychoactive” cannabis (marijuana) and “non-psychoactive” cannabis (hemp). They did this by, in the author’s own words, “arbitrarily” deciding on 0.3% Delta-9 THC and chose to specifically target the “young” and “vigorous” leaves of mature plants; not a part of the plant that is historically targeted for consumption. That “psychoactive” vs “non-psychoactive” delineation is only important in the context of the Drug War, which was heating up at the time the study was conducted. After Nixon created the DEA in 1973, industrial hemp producers were at increased risk for their legitimate agriculture businesses being considered illicit drug operations by the authorities. They found themselves essentially in a war of special interests against the burgeoning drug law enforcement industry. In an effort to preserve the business of “fighting drugs”, while also allowing Hemp producers to maintain their businesses, the DEA issued a set of guidelines in 1999 that allowed for Cannabis products with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC to enter the US without a license. The low end of potency for street marijuana at the time was about 5% Delta-9 THC, so the 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold left quite a bit of useless room between “marijuana” and “hemp”. The 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold was considered conservative, even at the time, as cannabis with 0.3% Delta-9 THC or less is not and never was considered to be genuinely psychoactive. Dr. Smalls himself would even go on to advocate for a 1% Delta-9 THC threshold in a 2002 study he co-authored as he believed it to be not only a better regulatory threshold for the Hemp industry, but also because he believed it to be a more accurate indicator of psychoactive potential.

To recap, the 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold signed into Federal law with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill comes from a 48 year old study that was never intended to be the foundation for regulation or legislation on any level and whose authors have since publicly stated that the 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold is not representative of anything meaningful.

So where do we go from here?

For decades, hemp farmers have been fighting for the allowable THC threshold to be raised. The 0.3% Delta-9 THC threshold leaves little room for error for a hemp farmer to make sure their crop is not over the limit, and thus considered “hot”. If a farmer’s plants test hot, at the very least they must be destroyed, which can be financially ruinous for a small-holding hemp farmer. Several legislators have introduced bills aimed at redefining what is considered “hemp”, and to raise the threshold to 1% Delta-9 THC. NASDA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, has repeatedly endorsed efforts to raise the threshold to 1% Delta-9 THC, but that political and legislative battle will have to wait until the Fall of this year when the 2018 Farm Bill expires on September 30th. Increasing the allowable Delta-9 THC threshold to 1% is the most sought after amendment to the Farm Bill this year.

We believe that the Federal government should increase the allowable Delta-9 THC threshold for hemp to 1%, and that South Carolina should follow suit on the state level. We believe that doing so is a step in the right direction for the hemp industry, and will bring about more responsible regulation for consumer products.

-From Cannabis, with Love.

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