USDA Approves Nez Perce Tribe Hemp Regulatory Code

Lapwai, Idaho – On February 12, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the Nez Perce Tribe’s Hemp Regulatory Code (Code).  The Code provides a regulatory framework for the safe and legal production of industrial hemp on the Nez Perce Reservation.  The Code was submitted to the USDA on December 16, 2020 for review pursuant to the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 directed USDA to develop this regulatory oversight program for hemp and included provisions for USDA to approve hemp production plans submitted by states and Indian tribes. With this approval from the USDA, the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee will now proceed forward with work on final adoption and implementation of the Code. 


“We are extremely pleased with the approval of our code by the USDA,” stated Shannon F. Wheeler, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.  “We are working hard to diversify and expand the economy in this region.  Regulatory efforts like this hemp code and our recently adopted water code are important foundational steps in this effort,” continued Wheeler.


Regulation of hemp production under the Code is extensive and includes licensing requirements for growers, inspection and sampling, pre- and post-harvest testing, and regulations on use of pesticides, and use of only certified testing labs.  The Tribe will regulate for “Acceptable Hemp THC Level” as prescribed by federal law. This means when a laboratory tests a hemp sample, it must report the THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration level on a dry weight basis of the sample. The Acceptable Hemp THC level of a sample, for the purpose of compliance with the requirements of the Hemp Ordinance, is when the THC level on a dry weight basis produces a distribution or range that includes 0.3% or less of THC.  Hemp crops that exceed acceptable levels of THC are destroyed. 


“Due to its versatility and organic nature, Industrial hemp has been identified as a potential avenue for economic development on the Reservation,” stated Arthur Broncheau, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Law and Order Subcommittee Chair.  “Because there is tremendous growth in sectors of the economy that rely on hemp, the Tribe believes hemp is an emerging market that can accomplish economic self-sufficiency and increase jobs in our region,” continued Broncheau.  


While hemp and marijuana are both members of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L, their differences are significant. “Hemp” is the term used to describe the food and fiber variety of the cannabis plant, while “marijuana” is the name given to cannabis that’s grown to enhance the chemicals (such as THC) that make one feel intoxicated. Hemp and marijuana also must be grown using different techniques and in different environments to produce the best possible results.  Hemp cannot be used to obtain an intoxicated “high” like marijuana.  


“Although we still have a lot of work to do before we license the first crops, we are excited for what the future holds in this area and to bring back an element of our culture that’s been missing for some time,” concluded Wheeler.