The passage of the Farm Bill is also expected to have ramifications in the sale of CBD products, which until now has had to largely survive without common financial infrastructures like bank loans and credit card services, said attorney Jonathan Miller, an expert on hemp law in Kentucky.
Hemp, which is closely related to marijuana but has no psychoactive effect, has been classified as a controlled substance under federal law for decades. The Farm Bill removes this designation and reclassifies hemp as an agricultural product, legally distancing hemp from pot, which is still illegal to grow in most states.
Hemp law reforms were never directly mentioned during the signing ceremony.
Tennesseans have been able to farm hemp for five years through a closely monitored government pilot program, and the new law doesn’t change that. William Freeman, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said anyone who wants to grow hemp is still required to be licensed by the state, but that licensed farmers will now be allowed to take their harvest across state lines. This provides hemp farmers and processors with “new options and increased markets.”
President Donald Trump signed Congress’ omnibus Farm Bill into law on Thursday, legalizing hemp at the federal level in a move that will surely bolster Tennessee’s burgeoning hemp and CBD industry.
“That would be ginormous,” said Billy Wall, who farms 70 acres of hemp in Franklin and owns a hemp processing lab in Murfreesboro. “It would finally put us on equal footing with regular farmers. It would be huge for all of us.”
Trump called the Farm Bill a “tremendous victory for the American farmer” during a scattershot signing ceremony during which the president boasted about recent bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, called former FBI Director James Comey a “liar” and attacked Democrats for their objection to his proposed border wall.
Miller said that most banks and credit card companies have avoided the industry altogether because the legal status of hemp has been in flux for years. Large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have also waited on the sidelines, interested in selling hemp products but unwilling to take the risk, he said.
Hemp can either be grown as fiber, generally used to make clothing, rope and building materials, or to be harvested for its cannabidiol, or CBD, which is advertised as having broad but often unverified health benefits. Tennessee’s CBD market has exploded in recent years, and CBD oils, lotions and food can now be found for sale in dispensary-like stores throughout the state.
First, as noted above, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC, per section 10113 of the Farm Bill. Any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered non-hemp cannabis—or marijuana—under federal law and would thus face no legal protection under this new legislation.
McConnell understood much about this issue. First, he knows hemp doesn’t get you high and that the drug war debate that swept up hemp was politically motivated, rather than policy-oriented. Second, Kentucky—the leader’s home state—is one of the best places to cultivate hemp in the world, and pre-prohibition the state had a robust hemp sector. Third, the grassroots interest in this issue was growing in Kentucky, and McConnell knows that his role as Senate Majority Leader hangs in the balance in 2020, as does his Senate seat as he faces re-election that same year. McConnell emerges from the Farm Bill as a hemp hero, but advocates should be hesitant to label him a cannabis champion; Leader McConnell remains a staunch opponent of marijuana reform and his role in the Senate could be the roadblock of Democratic-passed legislation in the 116 th Congress.
Why the CARERS Act is so significant for marijuana policy reform
One big myth that exists about the Farm Bill is that cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis—is legalized. It is true that section 12619 of the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally. As I have noted elsewhere on this blog CBD generally remains a Schedule I substance under federal law. The Farm Bill—and an unrelated, recent action by the Department of Justice—creates exceptions to this Schedule I status in certain situations. The Farm Bill ensures that any cannabinoid—a set of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant—that is derived from hemp will be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower. All other cannabinoids, produced in any other setting, remain a Schedule I substance under federal law and are thus illegal. (The one exception is pharmaceutical-grade CBD products that have been approved by FDA, which currently includes one drug: GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex.)
Deputy Director – Center for Effective Public Management
Many advocates applaud Leader McConnell for his stewardship of these hemp provisions into the Farm Bill and his leadership on the legislation overall. That assessment is accurate. Without Mr. McConnell’s efforts, the hemp provisions would never had found their way into the legislation initially. And although his position as Senate leader gave him tremendous institutional influence over the legislation, he went a step further by appointing himself to the conference committee that would bring the House and Senate together to agree on a final version.