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Pointed Comments On USDA Hemp Rules

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Dennis Kulesza 7 Jan 2020

Hemp grower Dennis Kulesza’s comments on the USDA’s draft hemp rules.

I own a fifty acre property in Pittsfield, Vermont. The property had been used for farming and agricultural for generations before it was abandoned in the 60’s prior to my purchasing it in 1999. I am told it was abandoned because the family that farmed it could not support themselves by farming it.

During the time I have owned the property I explored many kinds of uses for the land including agriculture. I have worked with consultants, engineers, the University of Vermont as well as many other reputable sources to see if there was any possibility of developing an agriculture enterprise on this property that would be financially feasible. The answer always came back with a resounding “NO.” As a result the fields have lain fallow ever since until this year when I started an industrial hemp grow.

I started the industrial hemp grow because the 2018 farm bill declassified industrial hemp as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under the Controlled Substance Act.

I started the industrial hemp grow because the 2018 farm bill declassified industrial hemp as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under the Controlled Substance Act. This provision initially peaked my interest but it did not cause me to jump in head first. I again did my due diligence. I researched the industry. I acquainted myself with the requirements under the Vermont Hemp Rules pursuant to 6 V.S.A. Chapter 34.

I researched the markets. I retained a law firm that specializes in the cannabis industry. I hired a consultant that specializes in growing cannabis. I formed a business entity. I formed partnerships. I invested in my property. I installed a solar array to power my processing facility with sustainable energy. I purchased equipment and materials all of which added up to over $200,000.00 AND I also have been working my butt off since then. I was happy to do all of this because under the Vermont AAFM rules I envisioned an opportunity to develop a sustainable business.

These rules will make it impossible for northeast farmers to survive financially as hemp growers.

Now that has all changed since October 31st when the USDA released their interim final rules for the Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program. These new rules go beyond being unfair to Vermont and all northeast hemp growers. These rules will make it impossible for northeast farmers to survive financially as hemp growers.

This is because the USDA is redefining the .3% THC limit. Now the “THC” limit is defined as the “Total Theoretical THC = ([delta-9THC] + ([THC-A]) * 0.877))” which cannot exceed .3% . This is not the limit we based our business model on. We based our business model on Total Theoretical THC of 1% or less with delta -9 THC being less than .3% as allowed under the Vermont Hemp Rules.

After having grown for one season it is quite obvious to me I would have to grow at least three times as many plants under the USDA rule to produce the same amount of CBD as I get out of one plant now.

After having grown for one season it is quite obvious to me I would have to grow at least three times as many plants under the USDA rule to produce the same amount of CBD as I get out of one plant now. A hemp plant will not produce enough CBD to be profitable without producing some THCa. We have to be allowed to grow under a rule that allows us to go up to a Total Theoretical THC limit of 1% or less.

Northeast hemp farmers do not grow hemp for fiber because our growing conditions/season do not make it financially feasible. Northeast farmers grow hemp for cannabinoids. If we are not allowed to grow hemp in such a way as to produce a reasonable amount of cannabinoids per plant it will be financially impossible to sustain a hemp agricultural business in the northeast.

The industrial hemp opportunity has been the first ray of hope for decades for farming in the northeast to become profitable and sustainable.

The industrial hemp opportunity has been the first ray of hope for decades for farming in the northeast to become profitable and sustainable. Now I am sad to say that ray of hope will be gone if the interim rule goes into effect in its current form. Jobs will be lost, tax revenue will be lost and farming in northeast will continue to take its long downward spiral to extinction.

A reasonable and viable solution would be to allow certified testing laboratories to extract any THCa from a crop when it is processed and turn it over to medical marijuana facilities such as hospitals and dispensaries. Hemp farmers don’t want this component and they don’t need this component.

We depend on our government agencies to protect us, not to harm us. This new interim rule does not protect U.S. citizens. It only harms them.

This component could be processed into medicine and be used to treat veterans and other patients who could not otherwise afford treatment. THC has been proven to effectively treat patients with certain medical conditions. Why destroy medicine? Why destroy jobs? Why destroy a tax base? Why destroy an industry? This does not have to be.

We depend on our government agencies to protect us, not to harm us. This new interim rule does not protect U.S. citizens. It only harms them.

Do they right thing by the citizens of our great country. Make common sense rules and regulations. Allow the total theoretical THC limit to be 1% or less or at least allow THC to be extracted and used for medicinal purposes by licensed facilities.

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