What Does a 1% THC Limit Mean for the CBD Industry?

Published April 09, 2021
What Does a 1% THC Limit Mean for the CBD Industry? - Secret Nature

The cannabis plant remains laden under a heavy cloud of prohibition. Arbitrarily divided into “hemp” and “cannabis” in response to the contemporary regulatory climate, Cannabis sativa is split in two.

Sensible regulation of cannabis is essential. Some cannabinoids should be placed under reasonable restrictions, and we should engage in a robust national dialogue regarding the best ways to welcome non-intoxicating cannabinoids into the mainstream of consumer culture.

One of the first and most important steps on this journey is taking a more reasonable stance toward THC limits in CBD products. Limiting THC concentrations to 0.3% doesn’t magically ensure non-intoxication, but it is an unsustainable definition that has already made legal paradoxes common for hemp producers.

Recently, a push to raise the THC limit in CBD products to 1% has gained momentum. Secret Nature proudly remains one of the spearheads of this nationwide effort — today, we’re here to relate updates on our progress and explain the pressing need for THC limit reform in the hemp industry.

Brief history of THC limits

THC is a substance that’s used to being under lock and key. Starting in the early 20th century, state laws gained momentum and led to federal restrictions on cannabis cultivation and sale that, in some ways, persist in haunting the modern CBD industry.

Limiting THC in CBD products makes sense. THC is an intoxicating cannabinoid, so it should be subject to different regulations than CBD, which has no intoxication potential. Getting high isn’t what CBD is about, so there shouldn’t be so much of a focus on THC.

As long as CBD products don’t contain enough THC to cause intoxication, they shouldn’t be subject to the same regulatory restrictions as THC. It’s not like THC is some dirty substance that you shouldn’t contact under any circumstances.

Given the opportunity to rein in THC’s most unruly properties and dominate this potentially intoxicating cannabinoid into submission, CBD products should be free to contain THC in concentrations up to 1%. Why are we so convinced?

THC in CBD products

What does THC do in CBD products? Does it make them filthy or abhorrent? No, but it might get you high if there’s enough of it.

The ratio of THC to CBD must be much closer to 1:1 for any intoxicating effects to take place. In a hemp product with a CBD concentration of 20% and a THC concentration of 1%, that’s a 20:1 CBD:THC ratio.

True, the same hemp product would have a CBD:THC ratio closer to 60:1 if its total THC concentration were 0.3%. Once you get beyond around a 10:1 CBD to THC ratio, however, any intoxicating effects are faint if they’re felt at all.

Should the amount of THC in CBD products be limited? Absolutely.

Is a limit of 0.3% THC in CBD products the best possible limit to impose based on science, reason, and the will of the people? Not necessarily.

Any cannabinoid scientist will tell you that a 20:1 CBD:THC ratio will not cause intoxication. Any hemp farmer, however, will tell you that a regulatory window of 1% THC in their CBD-rich hemp would be a lifesaver and a huge source of stress eliminated.

It’s high time for a sober revision

As recently as a few years ago, commentators could seriously say the whole CBD thing might go away just as fast as it appeared. Nowadays, however, it’s clear that hemp is here to stay — and it’s bringing everything else Cannabis sativa has to offer along with it.

With the domestic hemp industry stabilizing and expanding, the pressing issue of THC concentrations in CBD products will only become more severe. Already, unsuspecting hemp farmers are being forced to destroy their entire crops for testing in just slightly above 0.3%, and hemp industry growth is artificially stagnated by unrealistically low THC cutoffs.

The paradox in the legal verbiage

Existing legal statutes are pretty clear about their definitions of THC in hemp products — they’re talking about ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta 9 THC, as measurable on a dry weight basis.

That definition pretty exclusively refers to the decarboxylated form of THC (∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol as opposed to ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and even then only when measured as part of a ratio in contrast with other cannabinoids present in dried hemp flower.

Confused yet? Put as simply as possible, the current federal legal definition of THC is too narrow. Not only does it not allow enough room for error in CBD breeding and production, but it’s also obviously shortsighted in hindsight.

Right now, a finished CBD product can only contain 0.3% ∆9-THC or less, but it can contain as much ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) as you want. Since this carboxylic acid naturally decarboxylates into THC when exposed to heat or light, it usually isn’t present in concentrations higher than 1% in strains that otherwise contain less than 0.3% THC.

Still, that extra unstable THC can cause immense confusion down the line and even result in considerable economic losses. Crops might be destroyed, farmers might go out of business, and consumers might be deprived of what would otherwise be faultless CBD products.

Eventually, the problems posed by THCV, THCA, and ∆8-THC will need to be solved. Right now, however, moving the THC limit up to 1% would provide more wiggle room for CBD flower to decarboxylate in transit or storage without suddenly containing illegal concentrations of THC when tested later on.

The inconvenient reality

The truth is, hemp flower has contained an average of 0.3% to 0.7% THC ever since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Sure, it tests at less than 0.3% THC in lab reports, but these tests only account for THC, not THCA.

With both types of THC combined, practically every CBD-rich hemp nug in the world contains more THC than the legal limit. It’s simply impossible to reasonably control THC concentrations down to the tenth decimal point — it’s far easier to make sure your hemp nugs contain less than 1% THC (which they usually do anyway).

Changing the legal limit of THC in hemp products to 1% would only reflect reality. Suffering always ensues when you argue with the truth — coming to grips with the inherent reality that total THC/THCA concentrations under 0.3% are impossible would erase a prominent source of stress-inducing cognitive dissonance within the hemp industry.

The conundrum for hemp producers

Breeding and growing Cannabis sativa can be a tricky business. As a very vigorous plant, cannabis has a tendency to do things you don’t want it to do, and one of the mischievous, unruly tendencies of CBD-rich hemp is to accidentally bear a little too much THC.

Those seeds you bought from what seemed like a reputable producer sure looked like they tested in at less than 0.3% when fully grown. Yet, the plants you grew contain 0.4% or 0.5% decarboxylated ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol, making your state or the feds within their rights to confiscate and destroy the entire crop.

Though hemp farmers can now be covered by insurance thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, destroying crops that farmers toiled so hard to bring to fruition deals needless blows to the CBD economy and marks a tragic page in the book of CBD history in the United States. It’s time to get reasonable with THC limits and help the fledgling United States hemp economy take flight.

A perennial hemp champion takes up the cause

Hemp is a political subject that often crosses the aisle. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has long been a champion of his state’s industrial hemp industry, and recently, Sen. Paul introduced legislation that would raise the THC limit in industrial hemp to 1% throughout the United States.

Introduced in December 2020, Senator Paul’s HEMP Act has not yet received a vote. Paul’s previous hemp initiatives have, however, often been successful, and there is pervasive bipartisan sentiment that the industrial hemp industry is a considerable boon to struggling American farmers.

Support from an unexpected corner

You wouldn’t suppose the person who first defined the difference between hemp and cannabis would suddenly come to the rescue of a CBD industry overburdened by unrealistic regulations. All the same, Dr. Ernest Small, the Canadian author of the 1976 distinction between hemp and marijuana used by the United States and other world governments, has recently posited his opinion that the limit of THC in CBD products should be changed to 1%.

If even the person who almost single-handedly designed the definition of hemp we still use today says the government is wrong about THC in CBD, we should listen.

Problems 1% THC would solve

If Congress acted to change the THC limit in industrial hemp products to 1%, how would the CBD industry evolve? We can think of three important things that would change right away:

1. No fear of crop destruction

Sure, if your CBD crop contains 3% THC, you should always get into deep water with regulators. Some crops will continue to be destroyed, but only when such drastic measures are truly warranted and not based on an arbitrary distinction set in place nearly half a century ago.

2. Accelerated research and development to maintain competitive international edge

Other countries are starting to realize how wonderful hemp is too. With China, India, and even Germany rapidly gaining a technological and scientific edge over the United States, it is firmly within the national interest to exert every measure at the government’s disposal in facilitating a swift and simplified revision of current industrial hemp THC limits.

3. Improved domestic hemp industry growth

Since 2018, the domestic hemp industry has served as an essential lifeline for struggling US farm owners and workers. Making it easier for farmers to grow safe, high-quality hemp will improve this burgeoning sector of the domestic agricultural economy, providing job growth, farm valuation increases, and other widespread local and national economic benefits.

Your voice needs to be heard

You are the key weapon in the fight for 1%. Allies in Congress have recognized the reason in our demands, and now it’s time to make our voices loud enough to be heard by anyone reluctant to see the American Hemp Renaissance come to pass.

Here’s what you can do:

Stand up for 1%

It’s too late to stop the industrial hemp industry. It’s not too late, however, to slow it down with bureaucratic hurdles and outdated, senile regulations.

The push for 1% isn’t just about allowing higher concentrations of THC in CBD products to make CBD production easier and safer. It’s also about giving the hemp industry the dignity to breathe after decades spent under the boot of needless oppression.

It’s time to stand up for our rights. Decide how you’ll help the push for 1% today.

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