History has been made! Hemp is finally legal! The 2018 Farm Bill was signed in December of 2018 and Hemp is now permanently removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It is forever deemed an agricultural commodity, no longer mistaken as a controlled substance, like marijuana.
We are now ushering in a new era. An era of new jobs, reliable access to Hemp derived plant medicine, and the dawning of new potentially life-changing uses for this incredible plant. A plant that can feed you, house you, clothe you and heal you. So, what does the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill mean for Hemp?
First, What’s a Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is a piece of legislation that is renewed by Congress approximately every five years. Every Farm Bill is different, but in general they all address a wide range of different issues related to food and agriculture in the United States. The first Farm Bill was passed in 1933 to help farmers who were struggling as a result of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Prior to the 2018 bill, the most recent Farm Bill was signed in 2014. Among other things, the 2018 bill gives subsidies to U.S. farmers, and makes some changes to crop insurance policies. However, the big news for hemp supporters is that it changes the legal status of hemp.
Didn’t the 2014 Farm Bill Have Something About Hemp in It?
The 2014 bill also changed the way hemp was regulated. It authorized state-regulated hemp pilot research programs. However, these programs were allowed only under limited conditions, and it remained against federal law to grow hemp commercially.
So what Does the 2018 Farm Bill Do?
In 1970, all cannabis—including hemp—was classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and since then hemp has been strictly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Farm Bill removes hemp from the CSA. It will no longer be considered a controlled substance. Instead it will be regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), much like many other agricultural commodities.
How Does the Bill Define Hemp?
The bill defines hemp as, “The plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
Can I Go Out and Start Growing Hemp Now?
While hemp has been removed from the CSA, you can’t just start growing it in your back yard the same way you would grow a vegetable garden. The hemp industry will be strictly regulated. Jonathan Miller, General Counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, has been working for the legalization of hemp for six-and-a-half years. He explains some of the key points of the new regulation in a recent analysis. According to Miller, state and tribal governments will be able to set their own laws about growing and selling hemp, although the laws will be subject to USDA approval. These governments must also maintain procedures for testing, inspection, enforcement, and disposal. No matter what laws a state or tribal government decide on, they will not be permitted to interfere with the interstate transport of hemp products and hemp. People who have been convicted of drug felonies won’t be able to participate in hemp-growing programs for ten years after a conviction. Finally, hemp farmers will now be eligible for crop insurance and USDA programs for competitive grants and certification.
How Will the Bill Impact the Status of CBD?
The bill removes hemp products, and all derivatives and extracts, from the Controlled Substances Act. So if a CBD product comes from hemp that is grown in accordance with the new laws, then it should follow that the CBD product is legal. However, there seems to still be some uncertainty about how CBD will be affected. According to Miller, topical and edible hemp products are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the bill doesn’t change that.
How Long Have Hemp Supporters Been Working Towards This Day?
Hemp wasn’t always illegal in the United States. It used to be a major farm crop, and its strong, durable fibers were used for fabric, rope, paper and other everyday items. People relied on hemp so much that during colonial times, there were even laws requiring farmers to grow it. However, starting in the early 1900s, there was increasing anti-cannabis sentiment in the United States, and both individual states and the federal government started to restrict this plant. Since then, hemp supporters have been fighting to end these restrictions, and bring hemp back to its position as an important agricultural commodity. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill marks a major victory in that fight.
What Lies Ahead?
Hemp is a remarkable plant that can be grown with relative ease and turned into thousands of different products, and hemp supporters look forward to seeing what the future holds. Even before the passage of the bill, U.S. consumers were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on hemp products every year. That is expected to increase significantly. Miller says, “An exciting, emerging, multi-billion-dollar hemp industry will now be unleashed, providing economic opportunity to farmers and small businesses all across America.”
*We would like to thank Jonathan Miller and The U.S. Hemp Round Table for keeping us updated on the status of Farm Bill every step of the way. They have been working very hard behind the scenes and we want to send a huge thank you to all of those who have fought so hard for this day!
Written By: Andrea C. Nakaya