In the current climate, the cultivation of hemp is illegal under federal law without a Pilot Research growing permit. To many, this is a ludicrous ruling that makes no sense on a commercial or economical basis. After all, Americans actually get a lot of use out of hemp, having used it for clothes, food supplements, construction, and cosmetics for hundreds of years. Hemp is an incredibly useful plant, with the U.S. Congressional Research Service pointing out that it can produce more than 25,000 commercial products.
However, the laws preventing the growth of hemp in the U.S. means that much of it has had to be imported from other countries in recent decades, primarily China, India, and Canada.
If hemp were legal, it would create jobs in the agricultural, labor, transport and manufacturing sectors, and the country would make hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the products. When you think of it that way, it seems crazy that hemp has been illegal since the early 1900s. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, however, might change all of that.
But what is this newly-proposed Act, and what exactly would it achieve? In this article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know. But first, let’s establish why hemp was ever outlawed in the first place.
Why is hemp illegal in the U.S.?
Hemp belongs to the same genus and species as marijuana – Cannabis sativa. With the criminal status of marijuana being well known since the 1930’s, hemp has also found itself on the wrong side of the law, existing as a Schedule I narcotic since the 1970’s Controlled Substances Act).
However, hemp and marijuana are genetically very distinct plants. Crucially, hemp is legally defined as containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) of course is the psychoactive compound that can be found in the cannabis plant, and it is responsible for causing the high associated with marijuana consumption. Since hemp contains very little THC, it can’t actually get you high.
No distinction has been made so far between hemp and marijuana, at least not legally. This has led to all types of Cannabis sativa being illegal, including non-psychoactive hemp which is, as we mentioned earlier, still classified as a Schedule 1 substance (right up there with cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin).
Finally, however, it looks like the government might be coming to terms with the crucial differences between hemp and marijuana, and taking advantage of hemp’s large-scale commercial and medicinal appeal.
What is the 2018 Hemp Farming Act?
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 is a standalone bill, but it forms a part of the broader U.S. Farm Bill, which covers a range of agricultural and food legislation policies.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (KY), along with Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, is responsible for drafting the language of this bill, which was first introduced to Congress on April 12, 2018. It will go into effect if signed by President Trump.
As it currently stands, the production, cultivation, and commercialization of hemp is only legal for particular organizations that have received temporary approval through Pilot Research opportunities. This is due to the 2014 Farm Bill.
Under this bill, it is very hard to gain insurance and financial backing for hemp cultivation, meaning most American farmers don’t really see any appeal to try.
If the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 goes into practice, it would become 100% legal for hemp cultivation to take place throughout the United States. Hemp crops would, in other words, be treated the same as other agricultural crops such as corn and wheat.
Senator Wyden has actually stated, “It is time for Congress to pass this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to end the outrageous anti-hemp, anti-farmer and anti-jobs stigma that’s been codified into law and is holding back growth in American agriculture jobs, and our economy at large.”
Of course, this is very logical as the legalization of hemp would do a great deal of good for the economy. But what would it actually achieve?
What would the Hemp Farming Act mean for the CBD industry?
If the bill is passed, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would allow for completely legal cultivation of hemp across the U.S., without having to apply for a federal Pilot Research permit.
As a result, hemp would have to be removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Since it is a non-psychoactive substance, this is only fair that it is removed from this classification, as hemp has no potential whatsoever for abuse.
On April 12, when the bill was announced, Senator McConnell took to Twitter to proclaim, “It’s time the federal government changes the way it looks at hemp… [this is why we are] introducing legislation that will modernize federal law in this area, and empower American farmers to explore this promising new market.”
Full legalization of hemp cultivation would no doubt be incredible news for the U.S. economy. The current hemp industry in America is estimated to be worth around $600 million in annual revenue, and this is simply through the purchase of hemp-derived products. Think about how much would be added to that figure if Americans were allowed to cultivate the hemp themselves rather than import it.
Moreover, it would be incredibly great news for states like Kentucky, where poverty and unemployment are high. Pilot Research farms currently only cover about 12,000 acres across the state, but still have brought in roughly $16 million and created around 100 new jobs. If this is what Pilot Research farms can do in just one state, imagine what fully-fledged legalization could do across the country.
Furthermore, separate classification of hemp and marijuana would open up a whole new avenue for research into hemp and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in the plant, which would be exceptional news for the CBD industry.
Will the Hemp Farming Act be passed in 2018?
The complete Farm Bill, including Senator McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act, is well on its way to becoming law. On June 28, it passed the Senate majority vote with an approval of 86-11. The only thing left is for it to be signed by President Trump. As soon as it is signed by the President, it would become law and all farmers would be able to cultivate and sell hemp as they please.
Senator McConnell seems to be very passionate about this bill, so it appears that he will make sure the bill is not vetoed or killed off by the President. Hopefully, he manages to succeed.
Final thoughts on the 2018 Hemp Farming Act
Hemp cultivation in the U.S. could spell something great for the economy. Frankly, it is an absurdity that it isn’t legal already, but at least we seem to be taking a step in the right direction. With hemp possessing such commercial, economic, and nutritional benefits, it would be very logical to legalize cultivation of the plant.
If, or when, President Trump signs on the Act, it will certainly be a momentous day for the hemp – and the CBD – industry.