President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2018, signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalizes industrial hemp after decades of the crop being caught up in broader cannabis prohibition.
The signing ceremony represents the culmination of a months long debate over various provisions of the wide-ranging agriculture legislation. But after the House and Senate Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions, the final Farm Bill easily passed in full floor votes in mid-December 2018.
Hemp legalization, a provision of the bill championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, received bipartisan support, with members on both sides of the aisle celebrating its inclusion in the now-signed law.
While the move has been widely characterized as outright legalization, it's important to note that strict regulations still apply. Although hemp will no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, prospective growers will have to submit cultivation plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), either through the state government or the USDA itself.
Cannabis plants must contain less than 0.3 percent THC in order to be classified as hemp.
One other positive development for farmers is that the bill stipulates that the hemp will be covered under the Federal Crop Insurance Act, meaning that in the event that a cultivator experiences crop loss, they will be entitled to insurance coverage in the same way that farmers for other legal agriculture products are.
OK, what about CBD?
Here's what John Hudak of the Brookings Institution wrote on the think tank's blog about this aspect of the legislation. He said that a “big myth that exists about the Farm Bill is that cannabidiol (CBD) — a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis — is legalized.”
“It is true that section 12619 of the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally. As I have noted elsewhere on this blog CBD generally remains a Schedule I substance under federal law… The Farm Bill ensures that any cannabinoid—a set of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant—that is derived from hemp will be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower. All other cannabinoids, produced in any other setting, remain a Schedule I substance under federal law and are thus illegal. (The one exception is pharmaceutical-grade CBD products that have been approved by FDA, which currently includes one drug: GW Pharmaceutical's Epidiolex.)”
Hemp is explicitly removed from the list of federally banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.Hemp is explicitly removed from the list of federally banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Click To Tweet
“The significance of this law change should not be underemphasized,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a press release. “This law marks the first change in the federal classification of the cannabis plant since it was initially classified as a schedule I controlled substance by Congress in 1970, and paves the way for the first federally-sanctioned commercial hemp grows since World War II.”
One other area of the legislation that has been a source of concern for advocates is a provision that would prohibit people with felony drug convictions from participating in the legal hemp industry. That provision is still in the final version, but lawmakers reached a compromise and the ban will expire 10 years after the conviction.
As it happens, it seems Trump did not take McConnell up on his offer to use his hemp pen to sign the bill. But a signature is a still signature, and hemp legalization is now set to technically take effect on January 1, 2019, according to Vote Hemp. However, it will take additional time to submit regulatory plans to the USDA before farmers can legally cultivate the crop.
This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.