For decades, cannabis has been restricted to some degree across the world. Unfortunately, the criminalisation of cannabis applied not only to marijuana, but also to hemp. This is particularly sad because hemp is an extremely useful plant; it can be used for construction, textiles, and even nutrition.
The versatility of the hemp plant extends to its agricultural use. It is a natural insect repellent and so can be planted amongst other crops in order to avoid the use of pesticides. It can be grown easily without any chemicals, as it thrives in most environments. Furthermore, it can be planted in polluted areas as a way to clean up the soil.
With all these uses, it is clearly a tragedy that hemp was banned alongside marijuana. For a while, it has been legal to grow in the UK providing that you have a license from the Home Office, which can be surprisingly difficult to come by. However, hemp growing in the United States was even harder until just last year.
Most hemp products in the US had to be imported from elsewhere due to extremely strict laws regarding the plant. With the popularity of CBD products only increasing, it was just a matter of time before the government decided to make a change.
And that change came in the form of the 2018 Farm Bill.
What is the 2018 Farm Bill?
The 2018 Farm Bill, also called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, is the next installment in the US government’s agricultural laws. The last farm bill was passed in 2014, and some of the laws were already becoming outdated. The federal government in US reviews the bill every 5 years, usually.
You might think that passing agricultural laws would be simple, but you would be absolutely wrong. In May of 2018, the new farm bill failed to pass in the House of Representatives. All Democrats voted against it, along with 30 Republicans. But why? Well, some of the provisions in the bill could have liberalised immigration policy, which some politicians saw as a threat.
As a result, it was necessary to go back to the drawing board. After significant bartering, a compromise was reached which allowed the bill to pass. In late November, the bill was voted on again and this time passed.
Once it was signed by President Trump, the farm bill was allowed to go into action. Although the government had agreed on it, the farm bill is still causing some controversy.
What’s in the 2018 Farm Bill?
According to Farm Aid, there are mixed outcomes of the farm bill. Positives include a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which aims to help farmers deal with the rising levels of stress and mental health issues in the community. This was actually included in the 2014 Farm Bill, but it never received funding. Now, the network has been granted up to $10 million each year until 2023.
Perhaps the most scrutinised part of any agricultural guidelines passed into law nowadays will be the environmental impact. While the 2018 Farm Bill has allowed for increased payments toward processes that will improve soil health alongside other positives for the environment, there are definitely some negatives.
Hidden somewhat in the fine print, the 2018 Farm Bill establishes long-term cuts for the Conservation Stewardship Program. Furthermore, it does not include any priorities regarding research on climate change. These things may have unfortunate consequences for the environment in the future.
But what we’re really here to talk about is the new farm bill’s attitudes towards hemp.
How Does the 2018 Farm Bill Define Hemp?
The 2018 bill has legalised industrial hemp by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. This means that tribes, states, and territories can all set rules allowing farmers to produce hemp.
This part of the bill is largely down to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who has long supported the legalisation of hemp. Hailing from Kentucky, McConnell believes that hemp could become an important cash crop in his state as an alternative to tobacco.
However, McConnell is strongly against the legalisation of marijuana. So, what’s the difference?
Section 10113 of the 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as containing less than 0.3% THC. This is a vital distinction, as growing plants with more THC than this could warrant federal penalties.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Hemp?
There may be a wonderful future for hemp given that it is now legal to grow anywhere in the United States. A couple of sections in the new bill outline the future of hemp research specifically, which will be key for the rest of the world. Section 7605 extends the protections that were already in place for hemp researchers and researchers, as well as loosening restrictions on the conditions in which hemp research can be conducted. Secondly, Section 7501 introduces hemp into the Critical Agricultural Materials Act. This means that the plant’s importance and wide array of usages can now be recognised, allowing researchers to carry out their research more easily.
As hemp research continues to grow, it will have positive effects elsewhere. It may be implemented all over the world in order to clean up polluted areas, and we may begin seeing more hemp textiles. Since hemp is much more environmentally friendly and longer lasting than cotton, this is wonderful news.
And of course, all of this will have a knock-on effect on the CBD industry. Unfortunately, the legal status of CBD remains as grey as ever. It will remain federally illegal. However, Section 12619 of the 2018 Farm Bill confusingly states that any cannabinoid derived from hemp is now legal, as long as its production meets all federal and state guidelines.
Essentially, laws around consumption of CBD in the United States have remained unchanged by the farm bill. That being said, the increased opportunity for cultivation of hemp and the additional freedom in research will definitely allow the CBD sector to expand.
It is estimated that hemp’s legalisation will boost the CBD industry’s growth. Already, the industry is expected to reach $1 billion by 2020.
For hemp, the 2018 Farm Bill is definitely good news. We don’t know exactly what effect it will have, but we are excited to see how it turns out.