Updated April 16, 2018, 1:53 PST, with quote from CV Sciences:
The new Hemp Farming Act of 2018 officially debuted on the Senate floor yesterday. On April 12, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the bipartisan bill that would, if passed, see industrial hemp regulated as an agricultural crop and remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
The predecessor 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Obama, legalized the growing of hemp solely for research purposes—for instance, by state departments or universities. But the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 goes much further, classifying hemp ingredients (with THC levels under the 0.3% threshold) as an agricultural commodity and removing federal “roadblocks” to the growth of industrial hemp across the U.S. Accordingly, hemp formulated into food and beverages would be considered agricultural ingredients. The hemp phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) would also be considered an agricultural commodity, said the lobbyist group U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which represents a coalition of hemp companies.
Hemp industry advocates strongly support the 2018 Hemp Farming Act. U.S. Hemp Roundtable said on its website that the bill’s authors “listened closely to farmers and the industry in drafting the legislation.” As a result, “the bill covers nearly every item from the U.S. Hemp Roundtable’s dream wish list,” it said. Those items include:
- Removing hemp—specifically, the parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant with THC concentrations less than 0.3%—from the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that these hemp parts would no longer be considered Schedule I drugs. U.S. Hemp Roundtable further pointed out, “Better yet, the bill is even more expansive than the 2014 Farm Bill in that it specifically de-schedules all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, and seeds of hemp as long as those portions of the plant remain below the THC threshold. This means that popular hemp food products like hemp-derived CBD would be considered agricultural commodities, not controlled substances.”
- States will be able to oversee hemp growth and cultivation, expanding growth beyond what was allowed under the 2014 Farm Bill’s pilot programs. The bill also legalizes hemp growing in tribal lands, reservations, and U.S. territories—areas previously excluded by the 2014 Farm Bill.
- As an agricultural crop, hemp would fall under the regulatory jurisdiction of USDA. Not only that, hemp would be eligible for USDA research funding. In addition, the bill proposes that hemp farmers be eligible for crop insurance.
- State departments of agriculture would be required to provide FDA with details about their hemp program plans. “The states would submit a regulatory plan to USDA, which must demonstrate policies to pinpoint locations of hemp production, to test for THC, and to destroy uncompliant plants,” said U.S. Hemp Roundtable, adding that many states have already developed such processes under their hemp pilot programs and that these could easily transition to meet the new bill’s requirement.
- The bill “would clarify that nothing in this Act authorizes interference with the interstate transportation or commerce of hemp or hemp products—an important statement to protect hemp farmers and businesses from misguided regulatory overreach,” U.S. Hemp Roundtable said.
Senator McConnell was supported by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in introducing the bill yesterday. A companion bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jamie Comer (R-KY).
Grassroots hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp also expressed enthusiastic support for the bill, saying that it is “strongly poised to pass” in the 115th Congress. “If passed, the bill would remove roadblocks to the rapidly growing hemp industry in the U.S., notably by authorizing and encouraging access to federal research funding for hemp, and remove restrictions on banking, water rights, and other regulatory barriers the hemp industry currently faces,” the group said.
On the Senate floor yesterday, Senator McConnell said, “Today, with my colleagues, I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which will build upon the success of the hemp pilot programs and spur innovation and growth within the industry. 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.”
Senator Wyden added: “It is far past 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. Hemp products are made in this country, sold in this country, and consumed in this country. Senator McConnell, our colleagues, and I are going to keep pushing to make sure that if Americans can buy hemp products at the local supermarket, American farmers can grow hemp in this country.”
Vote Hemp notes that in 2017 alone, under the authorization of the 2014 Farm Bill, 25,541 acres of industrial hemp were “lawfully cultivated” in 19 states. “To date, 34 states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production.” These states include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
A spokesperson from CV Sciences, a CBD pharmaceuticals and consumer products supplier based in Las Vegas, and a founding member of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told Nutritional Outlook: "This is a monumental step in the right direction for the future of hemp in the United States. Seeing such strong support from legislators on both sides of the aisle is encouraging for this once-controversial topic and proof that, once [people are] educated about the crop and the innovative products it can create, this is something that becomes a commonsense bill for those who are willing to listen and learn. Passage of this legislation will allow farmers and U.S. companies a true opportunity to operate freely and scale appropriately as the market continues to grow at rapid rates. We look forward to working with Senator McConnell, Senator Wyden, and all of the co-sponsors of this bill, in addition to the companion bill in the House, to ensure passage of this language so that farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers can all take full advantage of the enormous potential that hemp has to offer."
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