- Leadership of the Kentucky Hemp Industry Coalition (KHIC) determined that it was essential to develop a self-regulation organization (SRO) for the industry. Not only was it important for any agricultural commodity to promote high standards, best practices and self-regulation, hemp had a particular burden because of its association with the more controversial marijuana. For policymakers to support full legalization, and for bureaucrats to reject over-regulation, an SRO was a necessary step.
- The KHIC hired David Bossman -a veteran of SROs in the agricultural space with no financial ties to the hemp industry - to develop a process to establish and credential such an organization. Bossman held dozens of conversations with industry leaders – from companies representing the crop from seed to sale, and from organizations that represented grassroots activists who had been advocating for legalization for decades. He also held in-person meetings at the HIA conventions in Denver and Lexington, where dozens of industry leaders participated.
- In early 2017, KHIC reconstituted into the US Hemp Roundtable, and per David Bossman’s recommendation, it established a formal process to develop a Guidance Plan for hemp growth, cultivation and processing.
- The Roundtable asked its members, which at that time included about 30 leading companies in the industry, as well all of its major grassroots organizations – HIA, NHA, AHPA and Vote Hemp –to send representatives to a Technical Committee to develop, edit and refine the Guidance Plan.
- HIA and NHA’s representatives were especially involved in the details and nuances of these scientific and policy discussions. AHPA’s standards were employed for critical elements of the program. In-person meetings of the Technical Committee were held in Kentucky and Colorado, and more than two dozen organizations participated in those meetings.
- Though it would clearly be impossible to interview everyone with an interest in industry, the Roundtable set out to try anyway.
- In September 2017, David Bossman presented the first draft of the Guidance Plan at the HIA convention. He also provided HIA attendees with a timeline and process to complete the Guidance Plan.
- In March 2018, the Roundtable released the first draft of Guidance Plan 1.0. The Roundtable emailed more than 20,000 hemp industry leaders and activists, asking for their comments on the draft plan.
- The HIA published this public comment opportunity with a live link through its social media channels, and the Guidance Plan was added as a clear link on the US Hemp Roundtable site.
- After widespread solicitation of requests for comment, the process managed to capture feedback from three critical groups: leaders in the fight to pass the 2018 farm bill (represented by Roundtable members), grassroots activists with long history in hemp (largely represented by HIA), and the people who were literally tilling the ground creating this new industry.
- In this process, the group reached out to every hemp pilot program participant across the country for whom contact information was publicly available.
- David Bossman personally reviewed all of this input, made revisions and improvements to the draft plan, and brought the comments and suggested changes to the attention of the Technical Committee. The Board of the Roundtable, which at that point included more than 50 companies and all of the grassroots organizations, then voted to approve the updated plan.
- The US Hemp Roundtable released the final draft of Guidance Plan 1.0 in May 2018. Again, the Roundtable sent emails seeking comment out to its list (now 28,000+), and the HIA promoted comments on its social media channels. Again, Bossman complied the comments and used the feedback provided to bring a new draft to the Technical Committee for edits, securing further approval from the Roundtable Board.
- Once the US Hemp Roundtable approved the final version of the Guidance Plan, it provided $200,000 for seed funding and handed off administration of the program to a newly created, fully independent organization: the US Hemp Authority. The Board of the Authority is constituted as:
- Marielle Weintraub, President, representing the laboratory industry
- Joy Beckerman, Vice President, representing HIA, the leading grassroots organization in the space
- Graham Carlson, Vice President, representing the Roundtable and the natural foods industry
- Jonathan Shell, Treasurer, a former State Representative, hemp farmer and Mitch McConnell’s campaign chair, representing political and policy leadership
- Rich Badaracco, Secretary, a former DEA and FBI agent, representing law enforcement
- The US Hemp Authority’s Board of Directors hired Where Food Comes From, the nation’s number one provider of certification and verification services to the food industry, to administer the program and lead, without political or financial interference, a third-party auditing process.
- On March 1, 2018, the Authority will announce the first awardees of its Certification Seal to companies that meet the stringent standards of Guidance Plan 1.0, and that passed the third-party audit.
- The Board has retained David Bossman to lead a new effort to develop Guidance Plan 2.0– aimed at applying the lessons of the initial launch of the program and taking even greater input from stakeholders in the hemp industry on how to improve the program and its standards. This effort will include in-person meetings in Anaheim with the natural foods industry and with the US Hemp Farming Alliance, as well as a renewed online effort of seeking public comment.