May 25, 2021

0.3%, the Magic Number: What This THC Threshold Is All About

If you know anything about cannabis law, you’re probably aware that the federally-legal limit for THC in your CBD products is 0.3%. This may have your noggin noodlin’ over why — what’s the reason for that specific amount of THC?

Have confidence. There is significance to the 0.3% THC cap (though possibly not what you think it is). We swear it wasn’t just some rando person selecting a figure out of the blue. So, let’s see what’s behind this THC threshold….

Cannabis vs Hemp vs Marijuana & Cannabinoids vs CBD vs THC

To really grasp the THC threshold thing, it’s key to understand what the components of the discussion are. And frankly, different sources may use terminology in slightly divergent ways.

So, back to basics just to make sure we’re all swimming in the same pool of knowledge.

Here’s what you need to know about this fine flora for the moment:

  • Cannabis is a species of plant.
  • Marijuana is a subspecies of cannabis, reputed for the psychoactive response it can produce in consumers due to its THC content.
  • Hemp (aka industrial hemp) is another subspecies of cannabis. It has much lower THC and much higher CBD proportions than marijuana.
  • Cannabinoids are natural compounds found in cannabis. They can trigger or enable all kinds of bodily responses and potential health benefits.
  • THC (aka tetrahydrocannabinol) is the leading cannabinoid in marijuana and is what can make users feel high. THC is also present in hemp, but in much lower amounts.
  • CBD (aka cannabidiol) is the most prevalent cannabinoid in hemp, but is in other varieties of cannabis as well. While there are three types of CBD — each offering a unique experience and menu of possible health benefits — CBD’s most known for its calming effects.

CBD & The THC Threshold To Behold

Now that we’re all trekkin’ along the same trail, we can get to the heart of our topic.

What Is The THC Threshold?

The THC threshold is a marker that’s been chosen to classify and regulate cannabis. This edge point — set at 0.3% max THC by weight — is used in many legal definitions of “what is hemp” versus “what is marijuana.”

The federal government uses this THC threshold to demarcate between legal hemp/CBD and illegal hemp/CBD. Several states explicitly articulate that any cannabis with 0.3% THC or less is considered “hemp” while any cannabis exceeding this THC limit is deemed “marijuana.” (This can be a bit confusing because this method of categorizing sort of ignores that hemp and marijuana are actually different subspecies.)

Why’s There a THC Limit?

Having a THC threshold can be useful for several reasons. As you’ve probably gathered, people have lots of different views on the merits of THC and CBD as well as whether or not it should be legal and how. Heck, they can’t even seem to agree on how to refer to the plants!

All this leads to the idea that a well-defined THC threshold is a concrete starting point. Legislative bodies were able to rally around this number and start creating laws, regulations, and other guidelines for industrial hemp programs, medical cannabis programs, recreational marijuana, etc. Producers and marketers can take this info and create products to sell.

Why Is THC Capped At 0.3%, Specifically?

Believe it or not — this is kinda a scenario in which a single, accurate phrase got stretched into a giant fish tale. It took on a life of its own — classic snowball effect, amirite?

Here’s what happened.

Dr. Ernest Small, a Canadian scientist, initially defined the 0.3% threshold in his 1976 study, A Practical and Natural Taxonomy for Cannabis, as a means of distinguishing higher-THC-containing cannabis from those with lower THC quantities. This figure was based on many years of real-world cannabis plant use patterns. It was not derived from THC’s potential for abuse or intoxication.

The 0.3% THC threshold was meant for this study alone. It was never intended to be used elsewise or elsewhere — like for differentiating marijuana from hemp in modern-day legislation.

But, despite not necessarily being an appropriate metric, this one isolated piece of info in a specific context was repeatedly interpreted and appropriated — to the point of losing its original narrow scope. Now it’s been given more weight (pun intended!) than is maybe due.

As such, it’s been adopted in the US, Canada, Europe, and parts of Australia as a sort of gold standard. That’s why the 0.3% THC limit pops up all over the place.

THC Cutoff Level — Ahem, There’re Issues….

Unsurprisingly, this approach to putting a lid on THC levels gets a little messy and controversial. Like a daytime soap opera…. (We know, you’re totally shocked that there’s Drama! surrounding this matter.)

So what’s got people in a tizzy? There are a few main areas of debate.

  1. Misguided measure. Many in the cannabiz reject the 0.3% THC threshold amount altogether due to its origins. These folks would prefer a THC threshold that reflects the level at which THC starts generating those euphoric reactions.
  2. Testing methodology. Only hemp that has 0.3% or less THC by weight can be harvested and made into goods, including CBD oil. The current testing process adds up the THC and THCA (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, a precursor to THC) content in the hemp. Critics don’t like this method of testing THCA only becomes THC if it’s heated. That THCA can essentially make the hemp crop register at higher THC levels than it would be if processed. Crops that test “hot” can’t be gathered — they have to be destroyed, which can be a huge hit to growers.
  3. Penalties. Hemp growers whose crops test above 0.5% (yes, another THC threshold) are at risk of incurring fines and legal troubles. The law views this like the producer was intentionally growing illegal plants. According to growers, this seems unfair because it can be incredibly difficult to consistently produce hemp crops that will test at 0.3% or less THC. There are so many variable at play that the grower has little or no control over.

How ‘Bout A Different THC Threshold?

Detractors of the 0.3% THC maximum would argue that, just because this threshold amount has broad global acceptance, still doesn’t make it an effective measure. Ya just can’t force some things — especially if they aren’t grounded in scientific fact or economic practicality.

Instead, the movers and shakers in the cannabis industry (and sympathetic enthusiasts!) advocate for increasing the THC threshold. They’d like to see the THC threshold that splits hemp from marijuana go from 0.3% to 1.0%.

Aha! Where’s that 1.0% figure come from? you ask. You are so catching on!

Take It To The (1.0% THC) Limit

There are a couple of sources or influences:

  1. A 2002 article, by Dr. Small and a colleague, states that 1.0% THC is considered to be the level around which THC has the potential to intoxicate. A THC content of 1.0% is still way below the average “street” marijuana (which often has 5%-25% THC) or medical cannabis (which frequently has 5%-30% THC). This is the data cited by Congress in its 2019 fact sheet on hemp.
  2. Other countries — like Mexico, Switzerland, and Thailand — adjusted their THC caps for hemp upward to 1.0%. This means there’s precedent for a greater THC threshold.

So, there’s a decent chance that a CBD product with 1.0% THC wouldn’t cause you to have a psychoactive response or create any additional harm. Meanwhile, it’d give hemp growers some extra breathing room — they’d be less likely to have to demolish hot crops. Backers of this expanded THC limit see this as an all-around win.

The 1.0% THC Threshold Movement

There have been attempts to revise the THC threshold. Though it died in committee, the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan (HEMP) Act of 2020 was introduced last year in Congress. If enacted, it would have:

  • Increased the THC limit for hemp to 1.0%
  • Changed how plants used for hemp-derived products are tested
  • Widened the testing margin of error

This suggests that there’s industry, political, and popular support to up the THC limit. Ya might wanna keep your eyes on this movement!

CBD, The THC Threshold & You

All of this means that — until the laws say otherwise — only hemp-derived CBD with 0.3% THC or less are (federally) allowed. To ensure you’re getting CBD oil products that fall on the favorable side of the rules and regs:

  1. Only buy from a reputable and trustworthy retailer.
  2. Be sure to read the product labels and packaging to see what kind of CBD you’re getting,
  3. Consult the Certificate of Analysis (COA) to confirm the actual THC level in the CBD product.

Pure Craft only sells superior products made from the highest-quality CBD. We also provide easy access to COAs. When you shop with us, you can rest assured that you’re getting premium CBD oil goods that are a great value and below that 0.3% THC threshold.

GET YOUR 0.3%-OR-LESS-THC CBD TODAY



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