CBD & The 2018 Farm Bill: What You Need To Know
CBD & The 2018 Farm Bill
CBD and Hemp have been a hot topic this year with new legislation being introduced that could legalize hemp for good. The 2018 Farm Bill expands and defines the legal status of hemp, allowing hemp businesses to flourish without fear of federal intervention. Currently, hemp sits in a quasi-legal classification, with the 2014 Farm Bill having authorized some use dependent on compliance with state laws, which has left businesses vulnerable to threats from federal agents, illegal raids, and lack of typical agricultural protections, such as federal crop insurance.
What Is The Farm Bill?
The most commonly referenced Farm Bill is The Agricultural Act of 2014. Specific sections of this legislation (primarily Section 7606) authorized agricultural pilot programs on a state-by-state basis to allow the study of growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp. This allowed young hemp businesses to bolster their efforts, emboldening marketing and business tactics alike. When CBD and Hemp companies point to a Farm Bill that will enable them to operate, they are most commonly referring to this bill.
Every five years, farming legislation is evaluated and reviewed, setting new budgets for assistance and nutritional programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). There are currently two versions of the 2018 Farm Bill and both the House and the Senate passed their bills. The House version contains controversial cuts and restrictions for programs such as SNAP, while the Senate’s release has been hailed by the hemp industry thanks to the strong support for hemp farmers led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Why is the 2018 Farm Bill Important to the Hemp Industry?
Arguably the most prominent proponent for legalizing hemp is none other than the GOP Senate Majority Leader. Hailing from Kentucky, a state known for its agricultural roots, McConnell is pushing harder than ever (even introducing separate standalone acts and amendments) to protest hemp farmers further and add a revitalizing crop to the agricultural industry. The Senate’s version of the new farm bill explicitly removes hemp from the federal definition of “marihuana” and defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” This bill passed by an 86-11 margin, which, along with the GOP leading the effort, suggests a serious changing of the tides and reflects that legislators may finally be taking note of changing public opinion. Some are cautious though, because, when combined with FDA’s recent approval of Epidiolex, this could be the beginning of federal intervention and crackdowns on smaller CBD and hemp companies.
Both the House and the Senate passed their Farm Bill versions, which means there will need to be some reconciliation of the two bills before they are sent to the Oval Office for President Trump’s signature. In the meantime, groups are taking stances on what should stay and what should go in hopes of advising the reconciliation. Currently, the bills prohibit former drug offenders from working in a legal hemp industry, there are significant restrictions on the SNAP program, and there are caveats that might allow the Food and Drug Administration to step in and overrule or limit the ability of individual businesses to get involved in the hemp industry. As we have seen with Epidiolex, the FDA is actively working with Big Pharma to get approved CBD offerings to market, and a legalized hemp industry could be the beginning of pharmaceutical hemp at the expense of smaller hemp companies.
These worries have yet to be ironed out in the legislation, but will most certainly be top of mind as the final bill is drafted for the President’s signature. The good news is that your representatives in D.C. are actively working to legalize the hemp industry, even if everyone has their idea of how to do it. The hemp industry is also split on how best to proceed, but the industry as a whole continues to operate according to state-specific regulations and pilot programs. A final decision will bring an end to this uncertainty on the federal level but could spell future problems if concerns remain unaddressed.