2018_Hemp_Farming_Act_00085

For centuries, industrial hemp (plant species Cannabis sativa) has been a source of fiber and oil seed used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products.

Currently, more than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, which is sold on the world market. The 2018 Hemp Farming Act will likely increase production that previously was strictly controlled under existing drug enforcement laws. The United States, and the U.S. market might likely increase exports rather than depending on imports.

Congress made significant changes to federal policies regarding hemp in the 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79). The 2014 farm bill provided that certain research institutions and state departments of agriculture may grow hemp under an agricultural pilot program. In addition, in subsequent omnibus appropriations, Congress had blocked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and federal law enforcement authorities from interfering with state agencies, hemp growers, and agricultural research. Appropriators also blocked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from prohibiting the transportation, processing, sale, or use of industrial hemp that is grown or cultivated in accordance with the 2014 farm bill provision.

Prior to the 2018 Hemp Farming Act, the growing industrial hemp was restricted. Under U.S. drug policy, all cannabis varieties—including industrial hemp—were considered Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),1 and DEA could control and regulate industrial hemp production.

Although hemp production was allowed in accordance with the requirements under the 2014 farm bill provision, other aspects of hemp production were still subject to DEA oversight, including the importation of viable seeds.

Congress has now distinguished between industrial hemp and marijuana. The 2018 Hemp Farming Act addressing industrial hemp, amends the CSA to specify that the term marijuana does not include industrial hemp, thus excluding hemp from the CSA as a controlled substance subject to DEA regulation.

In October, 2018, with House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill being reconciled, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture made plans to begin harmonizing state-level hemp THC testing in anticipation of passage of the Federal act.

The 2018 farm bill was sent to conference committee in mid 2018. The Associated Press noted appointment of first-term Representative James Comer, a Republican Kentucky hemp supporter and the state’s former agriculture commissioner, to the committee.

The 2018 farm bill was sent to conference committee in mid 2018. The Associated Press noted appointment of first-term Representative James Comer, a Republican Kentucky hemp supporter and the state’s former agriculture commissioner, to the committee.

The compromise version of the farm bill reached by both houses of Congress in late November, 2018 – after McConnell put himself on the conference committee – includes the hemp provisions of the Hemp Farming Act. Roll Call called passage of hemp legalization a “an early plank of the Kentucky Republican [Mitch McConnell]’s 2020 re-election bid” soon after the $867 billion farm bill was passed by the Senate on December 11, 2018, signed by McConnell with a hemp pen.

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Source: Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity
Renée Johnson | Specialist in Agricultural Policy