Hemp has finally been legalized in the US following President Trump’s signing of the farm bill on the 20th of December in a decision that is set to have far-reaching consequences for both the hemp and CBD industry.
Effective immediately, hemp is now permanently classified as a legal agricultural commodity, and as a result, CBD and CBD derived products will no longer be treated as controlled substances like cannabis.
The farm bill had already been approved earlier this month by large majorities of Congress, clearing the Senate by an 87-to-13 margin and the House by a 369-to-47 margin and with Trump’s signature, it is now official - Hemp is legal!
Trump Signs Farm Bill into Law
The bill, which has been renewed once every 5 years since 1933 is a huge piece of legislation that covers everything from food stamps to environmental land use. However, the 2018 version has made history by including legislation that finally ends the long overdue prohibition of industrial hemp, the plant used to produce CBD oil.
Under the new law, The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 removes hemp (defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) from Schedule I controlled substances thus making it an ordinary agricultural commodity freeing it up to be used for full research and development.
With CBD surging in popularity in 2018, the cannabinoid compound had existed in something of a legal grey area with a number of states legalizing CBD even though it remained illegal at federal level.
Despite the legal issues that continued to hinder CBD’s progress, sales topped $350 million in 2017 and with the new law legalizing CBD at a federal level, the sky is now the limit for this remarkable compound of the hemp plant.
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What does the Bill mean for Hemp?
Following months of political debate and back and forth, the 2018 farm bill finally legalizes hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances, where it had lain for decades, as a schedule 1 drug.
Schedule 1 Drugs are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”
Previous to the passing of the bill, growing industrial hemp was only legal if it was for research or under a state pilot program in states that had legalized it.
However, with the implementation of the new bill, each state will now have the chance to become a regulator of hemp production, while it also allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and makes hemp eligible for crop insurance.
The addition of this amendment to the 2018 bill is largely due to the work of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell had been pushing to legalize hemp since 2013 when he fought for the authorization of small pilot programs allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp.
“With the stroke of his pen, President Trump has made it official. My bill legalizing industrial hemp is law. Now that the President has signed it, Kentucky‘s farmers can continue to lead the nation in the growing, processing and manufacturing of industrial hemp,” said Senator McConnell.
“We are at the beginning of a new era, and I cannot wait to see what comes next. As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to do my part to bring hemp back to Kentucky, and I look forward to continuing to support its bright future in the Bluegrass State.”
Hemp’s illegality has been a longstanding talking point for cannabis legalization advocates, who have highlighted the problems that U.S. drug policy which had classified hemp as being more dangerous than substances like cocaine and methamphetamine.
Despite being cultivated by humans for thousands of years for applications like clothing, rope, and food, hemp production in the United States was illegal for much of the 20th century.
Hemp was first regulated in the United States with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the first large-scale effort to criminalize cannabis with the law making no distinction between low-THC hemp and high-THC cannabis.
This was formalized in 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act legally classified hemp as a Schedule I drug, but in 2019, all that is set to change.
A CBD Game-changer
While CBD hemp oil was legal in many states across the US, that wasn’t the case federally with the Federal government making no distinction between CBD, hemp, and cannabis and as such, CBD was considered to be nothing more than a schedule 1 drug, ie dangerous and showing no medicinal value.
However, as a result of the new bill, CBD that is made from industrial hemp, and contains less than 0.3% THC is now legal across the U.S, thus opening the door for a potentially huge boom in the CBD marketplace across the country.
Hemp was scheduled alongside both LSD and heroin as a Schedule I drug, and which implies that it’s more dangerous than both cocaine and methamphetamine (Schedule 2 drugs)
Thankfully, however, with the signing of the 2018 farm bill, we have now entered a new era for both hemp and the CBD industry.
With research opportunities set to grow exponentially, the potential growth and understanding of this remarkable cannabis compound will only continue to increase in the coming years.
Bethany Gomez, director of research, at the cannabis and CBD market research organization Brightfield Group explained:
“This is a watershed moment for CBD in the United States,”
“With hemp and all of its derivatives officially removed from the controlled substances act, CBD moves from a legal gray area into the light … this shift will allow for CBD to make its way to the shelves of larger scale, mainstream distribution channels”
For those involved in the industry, the residual benefits of the new bill are far-reaching and should prove to be a significant game-changer in the US as CBD loses any remaining stigmas that it had maintained because of the confusing federal laws on its legality.
This will give added protection to federally regulated institutions including banks, merchant services, credit card companies, e-commerce sites, and advertising platforms to fully engage in commerce with the hemp and hemp product industry including CBD.
Indeed, with CBD now being fully accepted and legalized, the possibility of so much more research and a deeper understanding of all of its potential benefits and uses will surely now ensue.
Clearly, we are now entering a new era for both hemp and CBD in the US as an emerging, multi-billion-dollar industry looks certain to emerge that will surely provide new economic opportunities for farmers and small businesses as well as giving millions of Americans the opportunity to use CBD both legally and with a better understanding of its medicinal potential.