The Mystery Behind Why 0.3% Exists As The Federally Legal Limit - Two Hawk Extracts

The Mystery Behind Why 0.3% Exists As The Federally Legal Limit

In 2018, a law was passed that allowed the sale and purchase of hemp for the first time in the United States. That bill, known as the Agricultural Act or the 2018 Farm Bill, mandated that industrial hemp and hemp-derived cannabinoids are legal, with one stipulation: they must contain 0.3% THC or less. This number seems so specific and yet so random at the same time. Why was this number chosen? Is there any special significance to 0.3% or was it merely plucked out of a hat at random? All of these are excellent questions, which in turn have interesting answers. In this article, we’ll be exploring in great detail some of the reasons why this mysterious percentage dictates the difference of federally legal cannabis. Before we get into that, it’s crucial that you understand the nuances of cannabis, hemp, and marijuana. Let’s get started!

Cannabis? Hemp? Marijuana? Cannabinoids? What Are Those?

Cannabis has undergone a lot of changes in the past decade, morphing from a feared hallucinogenic for the lazy and unmotivated to becoming a game-changer in how the world treats emotional and physical discomfort. Yet there’s a real problem with defining exactly what cannabis is, and how marijuana and hemp fit into that definition. You can read about the nuances of each term in our article entitled “What's The Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana, And Hemp?” but the short answer is this: cannabis is the plant species of both hemp and marijuana. If cannabis contains 0.3% THC, it is classified as hemp; alternatively, cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC is classified as marijuana.

Cannabinoids and The THC Limit

The compounds found in cannabis are called cannabinoids and are loosely classified as psychoactive (read: get you high) and non-psychoactive (will not get you high). We say “loosely” because cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBN and so forth can help improve your mood and provide relief from many mental issues like falling asleep, feeling hungry, and so forth. Psychoactive cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC, Delta-9 THC, HHC, THC-O, and others make you feel a heady high while still allowing you to remain in control. As long as these compounds are derived from hemp and contain 0.3% THC or less, they are considered federally legal in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Limit Actually Does Exist

You may be wondering why the limit of 0.3% THC is such a big deal. Less than half a percent of THC seems almost comical! Let’s look at some of the various reasons why it’s necessary to have a limit in place.

Differentiating Between Marijuana & Hemp

Before the 2018 Farm Bill, there was no official way to differentiate between the two plants. As you may have figured out, both plants are identical in scent and appearance. Both the federal government and the public needed a way to distinguish between marijuana and hemp. While both get you high, one can get you considerably higher than the other if you’re not careful. Thanks to the 0.3% THC limit, what was once considered a matter left entirely to growers and underground buyers was now available in mass quantities to the general public.

Protecting New Consumers

In order to ensure people aren’t consuming more THC than is safe, this limit exists to protect new and inexperienced users. For many weed smokers, the possibility of consuming too much THC is not only possible, but probable. Consuming a weed brownie or eating a few gummies may seem innocent enough, but if you have never gotten high before, it’s extremely possible to feel overwhelmed, uneasy, and distressed. Having a limit on the THC content as well as a recommended dosage helps those unfamiliar with getting high to start safely.

Legal Standing

When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, the federal government zeroed in on a specific number: 0.3%. This ensured a fair way to create regulations, laws, and guidelines within the states. These guidelines and laws allowed for the birth of programs involving industrial hemp and medicinal/recreational marijuana. Lastly, knowing this final number helped the farmers, marketers, and producers to successfully deliver a safe product that would be used in accordance with state laws, thus allowing us to enjoy the variety of products available in the market today.

So…Why Is 0.3% THC The Limit?

The renowned limit of 0.3% THC for federally legal hemp products has quite an interesting backstory. In 1976, a Canadian scientist by the name of Dr. Ernest Small singled out the 0.3% THC threshold as parts of a study he was conducting. This study was called Practical and Natural Taxonomy for Cannabis and was only used as a distinguishing factor between the various cannabis plants he was studying. Furthermore, the specific number was only landed upon after years of research in regards to the patterns in which cannabis was used. In an interview with the good doctor, he stated that the seemingly arbitrary number was only intended for his studies, never as an identifying factor for marijuana or hemp.

As more individuals read this study, the number 0.3% repeatedly stood out and people latched onto it. Despite not accurately measuring the threshold of which THC could be potentially abused or potentially cause dangerous effects like intoxication, 0.3% became the poster child for differentiating between hemp and marijuana. The United States, Canada, some parts of Australia, and Europe have all adopted this number as being the sole unit of measure in whether or not it is federally legal.


The world is finally starting to acknowledge that cannabis (despite their best efforts) isn’t going anywhere. Countless studies show the usefulness of cannabis can be used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. As the science and number of studies continues to show new information about both hemp and marijuana, many argue that this arbitrary number is pointless. Dr. Small confirmed that the use of the 0.3% was solely intended for his personal research and was never meant to be used in the grand scale of things in today’s world. This leads many to petition for an increase in the limit to further the good that THC can be used for. We’ll be talking about this topic in greater detail in our next article, but at least now you have a better understanding of why 0.3% THC exists as the federally legal limit.

If you’re ready to experience the effects of a product infused with 0.3% THC, you’re in luck! Here at TwoHawk Extracts, we offer a variety of products and cannabinoids that deliver a heady high you’re sure to love. Check out our gummies, vape cartridges, disposables, and tinctures available in Delta-8 THC, Farm Bill Compliant Delta-9 THC, HHC, and THC-O. All of our products have been thoroughly tested by third-party independent labs to ensure purity and potency, the results of which are available on our website as well as via a scannable QR code stamped on the product's packaging. We offer both full-size products and sample sizes for those looking to Try Before You Buy, as well as a subscription service that ensures you won’t run out without realizing it. Feel free to drop a comment below and share your experiences with the rest of us! As always, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns regarding this article as well as any topic in the cannabis industry. We look forward to hearing from you!

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