Congress passed the Farm Bill earlier in December, and Trump has just given his signature, signing the Farm Bill into law. The big buzz around the 2018 Farm Bill is due largely to the changes it will make to hemp’s legal status. The Farm Bill will remove hemp-derived products from the list of schedule 1 drugs, a classification that put them in the same category as ecstasy, heroin, bath salts, and (yes, still) marijuana. Along with legalizing commercial hemp, the Farm Bill is set to invigorate the U.S farming industry.
It seems fairly unusual that so many conservative members of Congress have suddenly jumped on the hemp bandwagon so quickly. Hemp has traditionally been grouped in with marijuana and seen as a drug in the eyes of society and lawmakers. But there are economic and environmental benefits to growing hemp over other crops like cotton and corn, and it seems like politicians have finally wised up.
Hemp requires less water to grow, you can grow a lot of it on smaller plots of land, it doesn’t need pesticides to stay healthy, it can help reinvigorate damaged soil, and it actually can help reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. This makes it an extremely lucrative crop. For politicians with lots of farmer constituents, legalizing hemp would help them gain some brownie points.
There are also tons of uses for hemp that we’ve already discovered, and probably more that we haven’t even been able to study. Hemp can be made into fabric for clothing, environmentally friendly plastic, rope, food, shoes, building materials, lotions, and of course, CBD products.
Given the CBD industry is growing at a rapid pace, farmers are going to want to get in on the hemp industry. In 2012, Colorado legalized the growing of commercial hemp and put regulations in place for farmers. Now, Colorado grows the most hemp of any state in the U.S. Since hemp was federally illegal, it was hard for farmers in other states to grow the crop. To make up for this fact, the U.S has been getting large amounts of hemp from China. Legalizing hemp means U.S farmers can become our main source of hemp.
2018 Farm Bill Gives Increased Access to Banks and Water
An important change that the 2018 Farm Bill makes is that banks won’t be reluctant to go into business with hemp farmers anymore. We know banks are extremely hesitant to get involved with cannabis businesses like dispensaries because of the legal status of marijuana at the federal level, and that can create a lot of extra work for dispensaries. Now, hemp will be a legal business, so banks won’t fear repercussions from the federal government for getting involved with the industry.
Hemp farmers will also gain access to federally controlled water. The Bureau of Reclamation controls water projects in western states like Colorado, Montana, and Oregon. And while hemp was federally illegal, hemp farmers weren’t necessarily entitled to the use of that water for their crops. The Bureau could have denied farmers access to that water at anytime, which would have been a major hit to their crops. The 2018 Farm Bill puts hemp farmers in a more secure position.
Will the FDA Regulate CBD Products?
While it would make sense for the FDA to start regulating CBD products, that isn’t specified in the Farm Bill. The FDA has re-stated that CBD is not allowed in food, and there is nothing in the Farm Bill that explicitly changes that. Since the government will regulate the growing of hemp, that should ensure “safe” pesticides are used and plants don’t contain more than .3% THC, so in that sense there will be more regulations. However, any CBD companies claiming medical benefits will need to go through testing done by the FDA before they can market their products.
There are a lot of clarifications that still need to be made. Some states have laws that specifically classify CBD products as illegal, and the Farm Bill won’t erase those laws. The DEA and FDA will also need to adapt their stances and put in place testing procedures for CBD products.
For a short period, state laws will be in conflict with federal law, and some government agencies will have differing policies from others. There’s still a lot of communication that needs to happen between all the key players before we can say that CBD products are 100% legal.
After Agreements Have Been Reached
Once all the states and federal agencies are on the same page, it’s likely that we’ll be able to buy CBD products in grocery and pharmacy stores. It has yet to be determined whether they will require a prescription or whether there will be age restrictions on buying CBD products. We will also likely see a large increase in the number of research studies being done on CBD. Legality on the federal level will allow hemp and CBD to be more heavily researched, which is something we’re definitely missing right now.
We hope that these changes come in the next few months, but, as with most issues handled by the government, we likely won’t see any huge changes for some time. Either way, it’s an exciting time.