U.S. Farm Bill Legalizes Hemp Nationwide
Tucked inside the U.S. farm bill that was signed by President Trump on Dec. 20 is a provision that will remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and finally legalize commercial production of the crop nationwide. It’s a watershed moment for a potentially lucrative sector of the cannabis industry.
“I think it’s really a game changer,” Joshua Horn, cannabis industry lawyer, told CNBC. “The significance is now you have some aspect of the cannabis world legalized on a federal basis.”
It could also mean a windfall for U.S. farmers, who have been hit hard by U.S. trade policy. Until now, hemp production was largely banned in the United States, unless it was for verified research purposes. The possibilities are now endless for any plant with a concentration of no more than 0.3% THC. Regulation of the crop will fall under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rather than the DEA.
Hemp has over 50,000 potential uses, including the production of clothes; diapers; shoes; paper and newsprint; packaging; cardboard; soaps and lotions; food supplements; protein powders; varnishes; solvents; coatings; carpeting; and even insulation and caulking. The plant can also be used to make CBD.
Some wonder whether the legalization of hemp could soon open the door to nationwide sales and marketing of CBD. While the FDA has said it will consider new “pathways” for the regulation of non-THC, cannabis-derived compounds, it's sticking to its guns on CBD as an illegal product.
Not everyone was pleased with the new farm bill’s language. A provision that prohibits felons from working in the hemp industry for 10 years post-conviction earned criticism from criminal justice reform advocates.
“A 10-year wait will effectively bar many people from contributing to this new industry,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a setback for efforts to help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet, and the ban only reinforces the false notion that hemp needs to be treated differently than any other agricultural commodity, a belief that McConnell and hemp advocates have worked so hard to dispel.”
Even so, it’s hard to temper the excitement surrounding hemp’s newfound status as a legal U.S. crop. Let the cultivation begin!