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February 8, 2022

Maine hemp growers, processors would see help under Pingree proposal

File / Colleen Maguire Hemp seeds grow to become a versatile plant that can be used for a variety of products.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District, recently introduced the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 to improve previous regulation and provide greater flexibility to hemp growers and processors in Maine and across the country.

While hemp production was federally legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, red tape and regulatory uncertainty have hurt industry growth, according to Pingree.

Hemp, which is grown in every Maine county, can be used for a variety of products, including rope, textile and paper.

However, regulatory uncertainty around hemp production, processing and the sale of CBD products has created big challenges for the industry. While more than 2,000 acres of hemp were planted in Maine in 2019, only 111 farmers received licenses to grow hemp in 2020, accounting for just 211 acres.

“The 2018 Farm Bill laid a legal pathway for hemp production but created overly complicated regulations and hardship for farmers and small businesses in the process,” Pingree said.

“I am introducing The Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 to eliminate unworkable testing requirements, set reasonable THC thresholds for producers and processors while protecting consumers, and end the discriminatory policy that bans people with drug convictions from growing legal hemp.”

Pingree has previously supported hemp farmers and hemp-derived CBD businesses. Earlier this year, Pingree helped reintroduce the bipartisan Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act, intended to create a regulatory pathway for the legal sale of hemp-derived CBD as a dietary supplement.

Among other things, the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 would raise the allowable THC threshold for hemp and in-process hemp extract to make the rules more workable for growers and processors while ensuring that final hemp products sold to consumers aren’t intoxicating.

The bill also would remove the requirement that hemp testing occur in federally registered laboratories, which is a particular challenge in Maine where there currently aren’t any of these facilities.

In addition, the bill would end the current 10-year ban on people with drug-related felony convictions receiving a hemp license. That rule disproportionately excludes people of color from participating in the hemp market, the bill's supporters say.

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