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Farm Bill Legalizes Hemp In US

The 2018 Farm Bill fills in the gaps left by the 2014 Farm Bill and clarifies that hemp and hemp products are legal. Passed by a wide bipartisan majority (386-47 in the House and 87-13 in the Senate), the legislation is a gargantuan 641-page document in which just a few provisions concerning hemp are buried among many others that address farm subsidies, food stamps, crop exports, conservation practices, crop insurance, rural development, animal health, specialty and organic crops, and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

While the hemp provisions may be short, they are nonetheless mighty.

Section 12619 of the 2018 Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act in two ways:

  1. It removes hemp from the definition of marijuana in section 102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 802(16).
  2. In listing THC as a Schedule I controlled substance in section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 812(c), it creates an exception for tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.

Section 10113 of the 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp more broadly than the 2014 Farm Bill defined “industrial hemp” thus eliminating any question that both the plants and products derived from the plants are legal, so long as the THC concentration does not exceed 0.3 percent. In that regard, section 10113 provides that “the term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Any cannabis plant or product that contains more than 0.3 percent THC will still be considered marijuana under federal law. 

The newly enacted legislation does not mean that hemp will immediately become a cash crop or that farmers can grow it as freely as they do corn, soybeans, wheat or tobacco. Before hemp can be grown outside of a pilot program conducted by an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture, the state in which it is grown must first create – and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must approve – a plan under which the state will monitor and regulate production. 

Each state regulatory plan must include a practice for maintaining information regarding the land where hemp is grown, a procedure for testing THC concentration, a procedure for disposing of plants and products produced in violation of the law, and a procedure for ensuring that the state will take appropriate actions for violations of federal hemp laws. In states that do not devise their own regulatory programs, the USDA will create a federal licensing scheme. One year after the USDA creates its plan, the provision of the 2014 Farm Bill that authorized pilot programs for industrial hemp will be repealed so that all hemp will be grown under the auspices of a state or federal regulatory scheme.

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