If you pay attention to Cannabis news you've probably noticed all of the excitement surrounding Mitch McConnell and the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. As of this writing, the bill has yet to be signed, but all media accounts suggest no opposition and expect President Trump to push the new legislation into action within days. Similar or accompanying legislation, however, was passed in Colorado just months ago with Amendment X - that redefined Hemp back to its federal definition. Prior to that Colorado voters had redefined the industrial product with Amendment 64 just a few years prior.
Leave The Bong At Home
The new Farm Bill has very little if anything to do with your average head shop or vape store, though it hopefully will allow for the addition of CBD products at these locales. The bill does not affect cannabis, so far as we can tell. States that have voted on legalization (there's 10 of us at this point who have legalized recreational weed) will not be subject to any changes with these new policy provisions - with the exception of how industrial hemp products might be sold. What the policy changes claim to aim for is expanding the study of the organic chemical compound CBD and allowing for a less politically stringent environment for companies to sell CBD products.
Peculiarities in Context
If you haven't heard, the farm bill is an unusual place for this regulatory change to happen. The hemp bill is actually a separate piece of legislation that was attached to the Farm Bill, which is a reoccurring staple of political machinery. Created in 1933, Farm Bills have historically set temporary guidelines for agricultural and nutritional policies. This one happens to create policies and reforms that will be in place for the next five years, after which, a new Farm Bill will be proposed.
That's why this is an interesting place for this change to happen: Farm Bills traditionally include farm credit, rural development programs, conservation, food and nutrition programs, agricultural research and marketing. Hemp hasn't been in this conversation in the United States since 1937.
Yellow Journalism Squelches Green
Hemp and cannabis we're both made officially illegal in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act and then again made even more illegal in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. These two pieces of policy have defined how we have treated this plant for close to 100 years. These policies have almost entirely squelched the possibility of researching the plants andm until very recently, any scientists interested in the potential of hemp or cannabis plants had to undergo ridiculous amounts of scrutiny and red tape just to get a sample to study. We find this circumstance as the prime motivating factor in Dave Chappelle's 1998 cult classic Half Baked.
At least now we know better. I hope.
The 2018 Farm Bill should expand the possibility of studying the plants by promoting a more accommodating environment. They propose doing this in a number of ways. The bill would allow broad-scale cultivation, not just limited to small Pilot programs like before.
The bill also seeks to allow hemp and hemp products to be transferred between state lines for commercial as well as research purposes. Finally, the bill would put no restrictions on sale, transport, or possession of hemp derived products “so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law”.
Rules and Regulations Apply
While this legislation seems like spectacular news on its face it would be a fool’s errand to leave out the details of the proposition. Let's talk about what we know so far.
The new guidelines are consistent with the old, in that they define jemp as ‘Cannabis plants with no more than 0.3% THC.’ Any plants with a higher THC content will be considered cannabis and be subject to both States and federal law depending on the situation, and let's not forget that state and federal laws can conflict widely on this subject.
Here's where the fun starts. To pass Hemp regulations into effect, the State's Department of Agriculture must consult with the state's Governor as well as its Chief Law Enforcement Officer to devise a plan. Next, it must then be submitted to the USDA for approval and signed off on by the Secretary of the USDA. Then the state can implement that plan. States opting out of this process will be provided a plan for them in which cultivators will be able to apply for licenses to grow and follow federally-mandated standards; seemingly regardless of what state policy makers decide.
A Growing Struggle
Growing hemp has been a struggle for US farmers for decades. Red tape and ignorance on the subject have kept US hemp production very low snf creating a demand for the product that has been filled largely by Chinese imports. These imports constituted a very minor role in commerce until recent years when CBD products derived from industrial hemp started to become popular. Now these hemp derived CBD products can be found in all 50 states and the health benefits reported have been too much for politicians and industrialists to ignore.