In mid-December, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2018 Farm Bill, whose provisions include removing hemp as a U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Until now, hemp has been treated the same as its cousin, cannabis. If President Trump signs the farm bill, hemp will become a legal crop for industrial and personal production, with some restrictions.
No High from Hemp
Hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC (the element of the cannabis plant producing a high). However, ever since the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, which made cannabis illegal, and the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, no distinction was made between cannabis and hemp.
The 2014 Farm Bill generated hemp research and was supported by politicians such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Kentucky Senator knows that his state contains virtually perfect hemp growing conditions and that it was a major hemp producer prior to prohibition. His state has benefited from the pilot hemp programs in the 2014 Farm Bill. Keep in mind McConnell is still a major opponent of legal cannabis.
The 2018 Farm Bill allows hemp to fall under the auspices of other agricultural commodities, although with more extensive regulations. However, if Trump signs the Farm Bill, it will qualify for protection under the Federal Crop Insurance Act.
Hemp advocates note that some of the founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew hemp on their farms. Hemp is used for fiber, food, paper, building materials, natural cosmetic and personal hygiene products, ethanol fuel – much like corn – and can replace many products currently made from plastics. Hemp’s ease of cultivation without the use of pesticides and herbicides makes it an environmentally friendly and versatile crop.
The 2018 Farm Bill will permit the sale of hemp across state lines, guaranteeing the use of interstate commerce for hemp products. While hemp production is allowable nationally under the bill, states can devise individual plans for hemp regulation and submit them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as with any other commodity. There is no longer any restriction on the sale or possession of products made from hemp.
If a state doesn’t submit a hemp regulation plan to the USDA, farmers in that state must apply for a license from the USDA. As the Brookings Institution points out, this system is similar to other policy options states have had, such as concerns the Affordable Care Act and Occupational Health and Safety Administration workplace safety plans. If the state did not set up its own system, it must turn to federal regulation. This also means that not anyone can decide to grow hemp on their property as they would tomatoes or corn, unless they apply for a license.
The bill considers certain actions a violation of federal law, and that includes producing cannabis with a THC level above .3 percent or cultivating without a license. Some of these violations qualify as felonies.
Additional Hemp Research
The 2014 Farm Bill introduced the pilot programs for hemp research. The new bill extends hemp research, with the plant included under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act. Let’s hope we can all look forward to new products made with this renewable resource so that we can break our dependence on plastic and other harmful materials.