In 20 years or so, Americans will hopefully be able to look back at the DEA’s illegal scheduling of hemp as one of the most foolish decisions ever to be made by the U.S. federal government.
For decades, American consumers have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on legal hemp-based products, including things like clothes, nutritional supplements, construction products, and cosmetics. Through this entire time, however, the production of hemp has been outlawed here in the US, meaning we’ve had to import the majority of it from other countries (namely China, India, and Canada).
This has naturally resulted in the loss of countless millions of dollars in revenue for the U.S. economy, not to mention the loss of thousands of potential jobs for U.S. citizens across the agricultural, labor, transport, and manufacturing sectors.
Hopefully, however, a new 2018 bill will allow for the cultivation and production of hemp to take place on American soil for the first time since the early 1900’s.
In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 – and what it potentially means for American farmers, consumers, and for the U.S. economy as a whole.
What is the Hemp Farming Act of 2018?
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 is actually a standalone bill that is part of the broader U.S. Farm Bill, which covers a wide range of agricultural and food legislation policies (including stipulations on the federal SNAP/food stamp recipient program).
Along with Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) is responsible for drafting the language of the new Act, which was introduced to Congress back on April 12, 2018. The legislation, if signed by President Trump, would essentially allow for hemp cultivation to be 100% legal for farmers across the United States.
The current production, cultivation, and commercialization of hemp in the U.S. is only legal for select organizations that have received temporary approval through Pilot Research opportunities (as stated in the 2014 Farm Bill).
While better than nothing, legislation under the Farm Bill still makes it difficult for would-be hemp farmers to cash in commercially on the crop. For example, insurance and financial backing for hemp crops is still largely unavailable in the U.S, which of course diminishes the commercial appeal for most American farmers.
Approval of the 2018 Hemp Farming Act would change all of this, and allow for hemp crops to be treated just as any other agricultural crop (including corn, wheat, soybeans, etc). As Senator Wyden logically points out:
“It is time for Congress to pass this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to end the outrageous anti-hemp, anti-farmer and anti-jobs stigma that’s been codified into law and is holding back growth in American agriculture jobs, and our economy at large … farmers should be allowed to grow the hemp that goes into the products you can buy at your local supermarket.”
What Would the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 Do?
As we’ve mentioned, full-fledged approval of the 2018 Hemp Farming Act would allow for the legal cultivation of hemp crops for farmers all across the U.S., without them having to apply for a federal Pilot Research permit (as they currently have to).
More importantly, approval would remove hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act, thereby opening the door for the unhindered research and commercialization of non-psychoactive cannabis.
In a Twitter post from April 12, Senator McConnell is quoted as saying: “It’s time the federal government changes the way it looks at hemp … [this is why we are] introducing legislation that will modernize federal law in this area, and empower American farmers to explore this promising new market.”
The complete Farm Bill (which contains McConnell’s standalone Hemp Farming Act) is indeed well on its way to becoming law, having passed the Senate majority vote with an approval of 86-11 on Thursday, June 28.
Now the only thing left to be done is for the Bill to make its way to President Trump’s desk. Once signed, the Hemp Farming Act would become federal law and farmers all across the U.S. would be able to cultivate and sell hemp as they please.
And fortunately, it looks like Senator McConnell will stop at nothing to make sure the Bill survives and is not vetoed or killed off by the President:
“As I’ve traveled across Kentucky I’ve spoken with farmers, manufacturers, and small business owners. Time and again, they shared with me their enthusiasm for hemp’s potential to reenergize agricultural communities, and to provide a new spark to the US economy. This bill will help make that potential a reality.”
Full-fledged hemp legalization would indeed be a massive boost not only for Kentucky’s economy, but for the U.S. economy as a whole. The current American hemp industry is estimated to be worth around $600 million in annual revenue (through the purchase of hemp-infused products such as food, clothes, and cosmetics), but as we mentioned earlier, the vast majority of hemp used to make these products is imported from other countries.
If legalized in the U.S., hemp cultivation would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the economy – not to mention provide thousands of Americans with new jobs. This would be particularly important in states like Kentucky, where poverty and unemployment have run rampant in recent decades.
In fact, just through the Pilot Research farms alone (which only cover about 12,000 cumulative acres across the state), the Kentucky hemp industry has already brought in $16 million for the state, in addition to creating nearly 100 new jobs.
Why is Hemp Illegal?
The current illegal status of hemp has to do with the fact that it comes from the same genus and species (Cannabis sativa) as marijuana plants. The crucial difference, however, is that hemp is legally defined as having less than 0.3% THC by dry weight – meaning it produces no psychoactive high whatsoever.
For decades, the U.S. government has been unable (or unwilling) to make this crucial distinction, and thus has classified any variety of the Cannabis sativa plant as a Schedule I narcotic – right up there with the likes of heroin, LSD, cocaine, and ecstasy.
Fortunately, it seems they are finally coming to terms with the fact that hemp is indeed a genetically distinct form of Cannabis, and one that has both agricultural and medicinal value (though industrial hemp has negligible amounts of THC, some varieties have been bred to contain high amounts of CBD; the natural compound that has been shown to have dozens of medicinal properties).
As long as President Trump signs off on the Bill, it appears that the United States will be reaping the undeniable benefits of hemp on a nationwide scale for the first time in nearly 100 years. In fact, the U.S. Congressional Research Service has pointed out that hemp cultivation (which has taken place in Kentucky since 1775) can result in the production of over 25,000 commercially viable products.
Final Thoughts on the Hemp Farming Act of 2018
All in all, legal hemp cultivation in the U.S. through the 2018 Hemp Farming Act would no doubt be one of the greatest achievements of cannabis legalization in the history of our country. The commercial, economic, and medicinal benefits of hemp are undeniable, and there is no logical reason why farmers across the nation should not be able to take full advantage.
Even though the Act has passed through the House and Senate with almost unanimous approval, it still has to be signed off by President Trump. If (or hopefully when) he signs, the day will become a monumental one not only for cannabis supporters, but for Americans of all social and economic varieties.
As Senator Jeff Merkley says, “If we’re selling hemp products in the United States, we should be growing hemp in the United States. It’s good for jobs, good for our communities, and it’s just common sense.”