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The 2018 Farm Bill has passed the House and Senate. After Trump signs, Industrial Hemp will be federally legal.

UPDATE: This article was written just before Trump’s signing. The article has now been updated to reflect the new status of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill has been signed by Donald Trump and passed into law, making Industrial Hemp federally legal. You might be thinking that it already was legal due to the 2009 Farm Bill, but not in the way you think.

This new bill (legally titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) differs from the 2014 Farm Bill in a few ways. The biggest difference being the new definition of Industrial Hemp being added.

2014 Farm Bill

Five years ago, the 2014 Farm Bill was passed, which defined Industrial Hemp as, “the plant Cannabis Sativa L., and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3% (on a dry weight basis).”

The 2014 bill also distinguished between marijuana and hemp for the first time. The laws enacted by the 2014 Farm Bill allowed for the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes, as part of an agricultural program, or as permitted by state law.

Also allowed under the previous bill was the study of the “marketing of Industrial Hemp”. The vagueness of this clause allowed states to set up agricultural pilot programs that also permitted commercial sales of industrial hemp. However, interstate commercial activity is not expressly permitted under the 2014 Farm Bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill changes that too.

2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill drastically alters the current legal landscape governing Industrial Hemp production in the United States.

First, the 2018 Farm Bill defines “hemp”as any part of the plant, “including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not,” with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. The 2018 Farm Bill also amends the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) to exclude “hemp” from the definition of “marihuana.”

The 2018 Bill also creates a specific exemption in the CSA for THC found in hemp. These expanded definitions and corresponding exemptions from the CSA could also apply to imported hemp. Meaning the new bill will allow for the importation and exportation of industrial hemp to and from the United States.

Unfortunately those convicted of a felony involving a controlled substance are barred from participating in any hemp program established under the 2018 Farm Bill. While lawmakers were hopeful that this would be revised in the final version of the bill, it appears that it wasn’t.

Federal Regulation of Industrial Hemp

The 2018 Farm Bill also amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (“AMA”) to allow for federally-sanctioned hemp production under the authority of the USDA. This means the USDA is now the sole federal regulatory agency overseeing hemp production in the United States.

However, states will be able to submit their own proposals to the USDA for state-regulated programs. These programs must stay within the confines of the USDA requirements, including:

  • a practice to maintain relevant information regarding land on which hemp is produced in the applicable jurisdiction;
  • a procedure for testing THC concentration levels of hemp produced in the applicable jurisdiction;
  • a procedure for the effective disposal of products produced in violation of the statute;
  • a procedure to comply with the statutory enforcement procedures;
  • a procedure for conducting annual inspections to verify that hemp is not produced in violation of the statute; and
  • other practices or procedures as the Secretary of Agriculture considers to be appropriate and consistent with the statute.

Should a state decide not to submit a plan for its own regulatory procedures, that state can simply apply for licensure directly through the USDA. In states with approved plans, all those participating in the program must adhere to the state laws that are established.

In addition, the 2018 Farm Bill explicitly states that “nothing in this title authorizes interference with the interstate commerce of hemp.” As such, the 2018 Farm Bill will open up clear legal pathways to interstate transport in the United States. 

The 2018 bill also requires the USDA to conduct a study within 120-days of enactment to determine the economic viability of the domestic production and sale of hemp.

With the 2018 Farm Bill now signed and passed into law, it’s a matter of time before the hemp industry explodes. However, the 2014 Farm Bill will remain in effect until a solidified plan is established by the USDA, which will most likely take a year. 

So don’t expect to see hemp products popping up at your local grocery store any time soon.

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