The hemp CBD market is already a multi-billion-dollar business. CBD is not psychoactive. It lets people to relax and alleviates pain and muscle cramp. Hemp is legally defined in markets worldwide as the cannabis plant with one major difference: hemp cannot contain more than a specific percentage of THC. The intent of legislators was to ensure that consumers cannot get high on hemp. In the United States, for example, the maximum THC level permitted in hemp was set by the 2018 Farm Bill to be 0.3%. In the European Union, however, the limit is lower at 0.2%. Yet in Switzerland the THC threshold is 1.0%.

Hemp legislation, irrespective of the jurisdiction, has created several obstacles and uncertainties. Among these:

  1. When dealing with the cultivation of a natural crop, it is unreasonable to expect an entire harvest to yield a natural product meeting an artificially defined threshold, especially when set so low.
  2. The lower the threshold, the greater the challenge to obtain accurate results. Testing has evolved considerably over the past few decades and sophisticated analytical equipment found in certified laboratories can do the job. But the demand for testing greatly outweighs the availability of such laboratories. Industry players need practical testing solutions to make quick business decisions about their products in real-time to meet commercial commitments and be competitive.
  1. Should the threshold apply to the raw material (i.e. the biomass) or the final product? If the legislator wants to minimize consumer exposure to THC, then the laws should focus on the latter. Why apply the THC limit to the biomass which does not reach retail locations? In fact, THC levels will likely rise during the extraction process when producing concentrate.
Despite the opening of the hemp CBD market, it remains a highly regulated crop for personal and industrial use. Cultivating hemp carries much more risk than growing tomatoes. A farmer can have their entire crop destroyed by the authorities for failing a simple potency test, sometimes only because they marginally mistimed the harvest. Meanwhile, that specific potency test typically means little in terms of the composition of the final post-extraction consumer product.

Perhaps the Swiss have adopted the wisest approach. They account for the natural variance of the hemp crop and give the farmer the benefit of the doubt, while the supply chain is not constrained by unreasonable requirements and consumer health is not put at risk.