On February 26, 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) took a significant step toward allaying industry concerns by announcing that it delaying enforcement of the interim final rule (IFR) requirement that hemp producers only use testing laboratories registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
When the IFR was published in late October of 2019, it faced near-immediate criticism from industry participants and stakeholders who, among other things, voiced concerns that the DEA registration requirement would create a bottleneck given capacity issues. Appearing to respond to those critiques, the USDA explained that its enforcement discretion “will allow additional time to increase DEA registered analytical lab capacity.”
Notwithstanding other applicable provisions of law, the requirement that hemp testing labs be DEA-registered largely foreclosed the potential for a single laboratory facility to test both hemp and marijuana, as the DEA, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, continues to treat marijuana as an illegal, Schedule I controlled substance. While this delay may provide an opportunity for labs that currently test medical and recreational marijuana pursuant to state law to also test hemp for compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill, it is not certain that the DEA registration requirement will not be reinstated. It is also not clear what further requirements states may impose.
Under the USDA’s guidance, hemp testing may be “conducted by labs that are not yet DEA registered until the final rule is published, or Oct. 31, 2021, whichever comes first.” Until that time, labs conducting hemp testing are still subject to the other compliance requirements of the IFR, including those related to methods of testing.