NIHC Hears from Hemp Champions on Capitol Hill

December 1, 2021

NIHC Hears from Hemp Champions on Capitol Hill

The National Industrial Hemp Council’s 2021 Hemp Business Summit day two started off with Courtney Moran, the President of the Oregon Industrial Hemp Farmers Association (OIHFA) who introduced one of our featured speakers, Congressman Kurt Schrader. Attendees heard an update from Congressman Schrader on everything that was happening in Congress, but he drilled down on his legislation, the Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act (H.R. 841) that will allow CBD and other hemp-derived products to be lawfully used in dietary supplements. NIHC has met with and expressed our support to Congressman Schrader several times and he thanked NIHC for its support of his legislation.

Later in the morning, NIHC was pleased to hear an update from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) who has two bills in the Senate that would address the logjam at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). His bipartisan bill, the Hemp Access, and Consumer Safety Act with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) would go a step further than Congressman Schrader’s bill by including CBD as an ingredient in both dietary supplements and food. Attendees heard Senator Wyden explain that the FDA has the authority to exempt items from this prohibition but has yet to exempt hemp-derived CBD despite the 2018 Farm Bill which removed hemp from the list of controlled substances.

Senator Wyden also spoke about the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act that he introduced alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Corey Book (D-NJ) that would provide a pathway for the use of CBD in dietary supplements while addressing the numerous social inequality issues around cannabis and cannabis use.

“Congress says hemp and hemp-derived CBD are not illegal substances, but the FDA somehow just keeps on merrily treating it that way,” Wyden said.

FDA Addresses NIHC

Senator Wyden’s comments were the perfect segue as attendees heard next directly from Grail Sipes, who is the Acting Chair of FDA’s Cannabis Products Committee. This wasn’t the first time the FDA has addressed an NIHC meeting. You may recall the FDA has some of its senior leaders address the 2019 NIHC meeting in Portland, Oregon. But now, we’re in a different time with a new party in control of Washington.

“We continue to underscore the need for evidence to support the science, safety profile and quality of CBD and cannabis-derived products,” Sipes said.

While many in our industry may agree to disagree, the one thing that we can all agree on is that as an industry, we must have regulatory certainty to continuing growing our industry.

Sipes also made news by announcing at the NIHC Hemp Business Summit that FDA was conducting a two-phase CBD market survey on the accuracy of CBD products to evaluate if they really contain what the label indicates. A large party of the NIHC mission is to be partners in enhancing consumer safety, and we feel the same way. There is too much misinformation and inaccurate claims being made by bad actors in our industry and there continues to be independent third-party groups testing CBD products finding errors in labeling. That’s why NIHC announced at our meeting the launch of an effort to ensure accuracy in labeling. We look to partner with industry stakeholders and eventually to have an NIHC certified logo on products being sold in stores and online.

In our announcement, we wrote:

NIHC believes in establishing an accurate, consistent testing regime. This label will bring value to the marketplace and integrity to products sold nationwide in stores and online. NIHC is exploring testing standards and third-party verification laboratory requirements that will be applicable when testing for potency, pesticides, metals, terpenes, and other product attributes. A critical part of the program will include using third-party accreditation bodies to verify that laboratories are following the appropriate testing protocols and properly calibrating their equipment, and that those running the tests are properly trained. 

USDA Also Addresses NIHC

The NIHC attendees also heard from a panel on USDA regulations which featured Bill Richmond, Chief of USDA’s hemp program. He was joined on stage by former Agriculture Marketing Service Deputy Administrator and current Food Safety Net Service executive and NIHC Board member Barry Carpenter. Rounding out the panel was Santa Fe Farms Vice President of Advocacy Hunter Buffington.

There is no shortage of items for USDA to address on behalf of the hemp industry and our panel moderator Rick Fox, NIHC’s Government Affairs Committee Co-Chair, moderated a panel that could have addressed even more issues, but unfortunately only had an hour to get through the many important issues in the USDA’s final rule on domestic hemp production. During his remarks, Richmond announced the new Hemp Enterprise Monitoring Program (HEMP) at USDA that will be an effort by USDA to capture production data and a way to monitor licensee information.

Carpenter for his part drew a parallel between the hemp industry and the organic program when that program was in its infancy at USDA. Carpenter noted that when the USDA adopted its organic program, that it was done to provide the maximum amount of flexibility to the industry as possible as they sought to grow and expand market access – particularly internationally – for organic products.

Importance of Communicating About Hemp

Hemp Business Summit attendees also heard from Global Branding Expert of GT&I Glenn Tarr who talked about the need to speak with a unified voice to promote U.S.-based hemp in the global economy. As Founder and Creative Director of GT&I, Glenn spoke to attendees about the importance of raising awareness of NIHC as a global leader in the hemp industry and that means getting away from the use of the cannabis leaf that is all too often associated with higher THC cannabis. In doing so, Tarr told attendees NIHC can help lead the effort by communicating all the positive attributes of the hemp plant including its numerous industrial applications and ability to sequester carbon; and change the narrative that hemp is just another word for an intoxicating substance.

Economic Update – And Plenty of Data to Share

NIHC Chief Economist Beau Whitney of Whitney Economics closed out the Summit with an engaging economic update.

Whitney noted that cannabis production is now legal in 65 countries and that U.S. government inaction is hurting U.S. global competitiveness. Despite that inaction, U.S. hemp still accounts for 25 percent of the world’s hemp market.

Whitney says there has been an increase of 575% of cultivation capacity in the U.S. but that the lack of buyers, particularly in the manufacturing sector, has led to an excess of inventories and with it, a sharp decline in prices. He indicates the shifting trend in the hemp industry with cultivation licensees increasing in non-tradition hemp producing states. While traditional hemp states like Kentucky and Colorado still have a place among the states with the most licensees, we’re seeing additional licenses rising in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee rounding out the top ten.

Finally, Whitney closed by noting that capacity is still required in the hemp industry, but not just for CBD flower. He expects that the trend will begin to shift to fiber and grain product in 2022. He also noted that there is no data available for hemp product manufacturing. 

The NIHC 2021 Hemp Business Summit provided the needed intelligence and framework to continue to move the needle on U.S. hemp production and innovation in the coming year. NIHC looks forward to continuing the discussions on many levels to secure the future of the industry.