The Senate recently passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which contains provisions to legalize the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp. Any part of the hemp plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids would be legalized under this Bill.
The hemp legislation was originally proposed and championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose home state of Kentucky would reap great benefits from hemp legalization. McConnell had proposed a stand alone hemp legalization bill earlier this spring – The Hemp Farming Act of 2018; and the provisions of the Hemp Farming Act have been incorporated into the 2018 Farm Bill.
If passed, the Farm Bill would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Importantly, the Farm Bill would provide hemp farmers the opportunity to obtain crop insurance and apply for federal research grants.
Regulatory authority over hemp would be given to the US Department of Agriculture. States and Tribes would then be tasked with submitting their own regulatory plans to the USDA. These plans would be required to include the following:
- a practice to maintain relevant information regarding land on which hemp is produced;
- a procedure for testing the THC concentration levels of hemp produced;
- a procedure for the effective disposal of products that are not compliant; and
- a procedure to comply with the enforcement procedures for hemp legalization.
The Senate Farm Bill, however, would bar anyone convicted of a federal drug crime from growing hemp. Although many states, including Washington State, already bar those with drug convictions from growing hemp for research purposes, the ban is being criticized as stigmatizing an otherwise legitimate industry. In other words, why should a prior criminal conviction prevent someone from growing what would now be deemed a legitimate agricultural commodity?
The next step for the Farm Bill is for the Senate Committee to negotiate with the House of Representatives. McConnell has named himself to the Senate Committee that will be negotiating the Bill to ensure survival of the hemp legalization provisions.
Given bipartisan support for this issue, it is conceivable that Hemp could be legalized this year; and this could greatly change the landscape in regard to the current status of CBD. As discussed, in my prior post, although the FDA for the first time recently approved a cannabis based drug, CBD remains illegal on the federal level. Stay tuned for more news on the Farm Bill and the future of hemp in the U.S.
For more information on the regulation of marijuana and hemp businesses in Washington State, please contact Heather Wolf.