Photo courtesy of Eli Harrington

One day before they were set to expire, and with the threat of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) looming, the hemp regulations that presently govern the Vermont hemp program will remain in place until September 30, 2021.

The announcement came via email on the afternoon of October 30 from Stephanie Ann Smith, Cannabis Quality Control and Policy Administrator at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM).

Dear Hemp Program Registrant,

On October 1, 2020 federal legislation became effective that extended the hemp pilot program authorization in the 2014 Farm Bill until September 30, 2021.  Due to the extension of the authorization, the Vermont Hemp Program intends to continue to operate its hemp pilot program.   This federal extension also provides additional time to draft and implement state hemp production plans under the 2018 Farm Bill.  Initially, the hemp pilot program authorization was set to be repealed on October 31, 2020.

Vermont Hemp Program participants should experience little if any change due to the extension of the pilot program.  Program participants must register with the Vermont Hemp Program to grow and process hemp. Online registration for 2021 will open in November.  The Vermont Hemp Rules remain in effect.  These rules include potency, testing, reporting and record-keeping requirements.  Please take time to review the rules to understand your obligations as a registrant in the Vermont Hemp Program.  Additionally, the action limits for contaminants, and testing requirements established in the Cannabis Quality Control Program can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Eli Harrington

The announcement is a relief to Vermont’s 584 registered hemp cultivators — including the one writing this blog post — as the prospect of new testing rules, new registration processes, and the threat of the DEA policing farmers had created an incredible amount of uncertainty and fear in Vermont’s remaining hemp farming community.

Read: “Vermont Hemp Growers ‘Panic’ Over Proposed Fed Regulations”, November 5, 2019, Xander Landen, Caledonian Record

Flytape Plant in the NEK, image by Eli Harrington

 

Although the extremely grower and industry-friendly Vermont Hemp Program rules will remain for now, serious uncertainty still looms as the newly-delayed deadline of September 30, 2021 goes into effect before most outdoor growers complete their harvest.

That October overlap makes possible nightmare scenario for Vermont hemp growers in 2021 if the rules change between planting and harvesting and a legal crop either becomes illegal or too expensive to harvest based on new federal guidelines, especially related to allowable levels of THC.

Vermont Hemp Program Registrants since 2013…another blog for another day. image via Stephanie Smith, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM)

 

The Vermont Hemp Program peaked in 2019 with 985 registered cultivators who had registered over 9,000 acres, but in 2020, registration plummeted nearly in half to 584 cultivators on 1600 acres.

Some of that decrease was driven by the threat of the now-delayed federal takeover of hemp administration, but the disappointment from a drop in CBD prices for growers and higher licensing fees are the real reasons there were 400 less cultivators and 7500 fewer acres registered in 2020.

The temporary reprieve is welcome news for Vermont hemp growers and processors at the end of a long harvest season, but the VAAFM reminds all parties that the Vermont Hemp Program rules adopted in May 2020 remain in effect.