This past week, the United States made progress toward the federal legalization of hemp.
On Thursday, April 12th, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced Senate Bill 2667, titled the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. In addition, House Bill 5485, a companion to S. 2667, was introduced by Representatives James Comer (R-KY) and Jared Polis (D-CO). If passed, the legislation would remove industrial hemp as a schedule I substance and legalize the commercial cultivation of the crop on a federal level.
“By legalizing hemp and empowering states to conduct their own oversight plans, we can give the hemp industry the tools necessary to create jobs and new opportunities for farmers and manufacturers around the county,” said McConnell.
The Current Legal Status of Hemp in the U.S.
In the perspective of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), hemp is grouped with marijuana and is listed as a schedule I substance. This puts limitations on opportunities for research and commercialization.
So, how are companies able to sell hemp products legally?
Hemp companies do not operate under state medical and recreational marijuana laws. Instead, they operate under the 2014 Farm Bill, a federal bill that defines industrial hemp as legal if the final product contains less than 0.3% THC. Under this legislation, properly sourced hemp products with less than 0.3% THC are legal to produce and purchase in the United States.
The Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of the hemp for research purposes in states that permit the cultivation of hemp. At least 35 states have hemp legislation in place.
However, the U.S. hemp industry remains constrained without full commercial hemp farming legislation. The Hemp Farming Act would change this by clearly defining the federal legal status of hemp.
S. 2667 would advance the hemp industry in the following areas:
- Include U.S. grown hemp in the USDA National Organic Program.
- Establish the legality of interstate hemp commerce.
- Open the door to research opportunities.
- Allow access to public water rights for hemp farmers.
In addition, the legislation would protect the legality of production and consumption of the whole hemp plant. This includes the extracts derived from hemp, including CBD.
The prohibition of the hemp plant has spanned over 80 years. This legislation would give American farmers the opportunity to benefit from hemp’s economic potential and supply the U.S. consumer market for hemp products—which is one of the largest in the world. As a consumer, the whole plant definition of hemp will further legitimize hemp products as non-drug goods, which will expand the U.S. hemp market.
When Should We Expect the Legislation to Pass?
As of current, it is unknown when the bill will be put up to vote. We will keep our customers updated on the status of this bill.