The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is extending its deadline for hemp to be tested at laboratories certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) until Dec. 31, 2023—nearly an entire year later than its initial deadline, Jan. 1, 2023.

The USDA announced it is delaying the testing deadline due to an “inadequate” number of DEA-registered testing facilities.

“We are delaying enforcement of these requirements based on input received from State and Tribal governments and third-party cannabis testing facilities who have experienced delays in completing the DEA laboratory registration process,” the USDA wrote in its announcement.

The USDA added it is also concerned that there will not be enough hemp testing laboratories for the 2023 growing season, “which will hinder the growth of a domestic hemp market at this nascent stage. Laboratories testing hemp must comply with all other regulatory requirements.”

Following the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill), which legalized hemp at the federal level, the USDA released an Interim Final Rule (IFR) in October 2019 to address issues arising under the farm bill. The IFR, among other things, clarified that all hemp testing laboratories must be registered with the DEA.

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In 2020, the federal agency announced it was extending some requirements outlined in the IFR, including the rule for labs to be registered by the DEA, Cannabis Business Times reported.

When the USDA published its final rule on hemp production in January 2021, it delayed that requirement even further until Dec. 31, 2022, to give labs more time to complete the certification process, CBT reported.

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The requirement received pushback from the industry and raised concerns amongst growers that it would “severely limit their testing options, creating backlogs and long wait times that could impact their results,” CBT reported. However, others in the industry disagreed and said using such labs brings “much-needed standardization to the hemp testing industry.”

There are 87 DEA-registered labs for hemp testing as of Dec. 13—that number is only up slightly from April 2021, which reported fewer than 80 registered labs.