State legislatures view industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. Many products use industrial hemp such as fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, animal feed, food, and beverages. It is estimated that more than 25,000 products in nine major market segments utilize industrial hemp including: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food/nutrition/beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care.

Both hemp and marijuana products are derived from the cannabis plant. In general three species may be recognized: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, where C. ruderalis may be included within C. sativa; or all three may be treated as subspecies of a single species, C. sativa.

Hemp is distinguished by its use, physical appearance and lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp producers often grow the plant for the one or more consumer products — seeds, flowers and stalk. The industrial hemp plant is cultivated to grow taller, denser and with a single stalk.

Federal Action

President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill, which included Section 7606 allowing for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes. The law allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for the following purposes: (1) the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research; and (2) the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp is allowed under the laws of the state in which such institution of higher education or state department of agriculture is located and such research occurs.” The law also requires that the grow sites be certified by—and registered with—their state.

On December 20, 2018 President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill signaling the official nationwide legalization of industrial hemp. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell inserted language from his 2018 Hemp Farming Act into the 2018 Farm Bill to federally legalize the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp, which is defined as cannabis that contains less than 0.3-percent THC.

Congress passed the $867-billion agricultural legislation Dec. 12, effectively removing hemp from the list of controlled substances and allowing states to regulate its production, commerce and research with approval from the USDA.

“The 2018 Farm Bill is an 807-page document. Hemp is discussed only a few times throughout this document; however, the impact on the industry is epic,” said Dr. Jenelle Kim, co-founder and lead formulator at JBK Wellness Labs. “Ultimately, the Farm Bill will end the era of hemp prohibition and would deem that hemp is an agricultural commodity and is removed from the Controlled Substances Act where it is no longer mistaken as a controlled substance, like marijuana.”

State Action

State by state policymakers have taken action to address various policy issues — the definition of hemp, grower licensing, regulation and certification of seeds, state-wide commissions and legal protection of growers. At least 41 states have passed legislation related to industrial hemp, such as defining hemp and removing barriers, and at least 39 states have allowed for hemp cultivation and production programs. Some states establishing these programs require a change in federal laws or a waiver from the DEA prior to implementation.

2018 Legislation Update

At least 38 states considered legislation related to industrial hemp in 2018. These bills ranged from clarifying existing laws to establishing new licensing requirements and programs. At least 5 states – Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma – enacted legislation in 2018 establishing hemp research and industrial hemp pilot programs. Georgia adopted a resolution to create the House Study Committee on Industrial Hemp Production. States, already allowing for industrial hemp programs, continued to consider policies related to licensing, funding, seed certification, and other issues. Tennessee recent amended its Commercial Feed Law to include hemp.


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