Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has introduced a bill to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp.
McConnell’s bill, The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, S. 2667, was introduced April 12, 2018. If passed, the bill would remove industrial hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and federally legalize commercial cultivation of the crop.
“The removal of industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act is critical to the advancement of hundreds of farmers and stakeholders that the HIA represents,” said Colleen Keahey Lanier, executive director, Hemp Industries Association. “Our association also supports state chapters whose committed leaders have been working hard to support favorable state legislation to develop agricultural pilot programs for hemp farming and domestic whole plant products since 2014.”
“Despite the clear language of Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, along with protective hemp amendments that have continued in the federal omnibus since 2015, the DEA continues to put forth guidance and implement rule that conflicts with legislative intent, causing state lawmakers and state and federal regulatory agencies to remain cautious,” said Joy Beckerman, Hemp Industries Assocation president. “We expect research and American innovation to springboard under this proposed full legalization.”
Though the 2014 farm bill included a provision that allowed states to grow industrial hemp for research purposes; U.S. hemp industries remain constrained by lack of full commercial hemp farming legislation.
McConnell’s legislation would have several benefits, according to the hemp association, including:
- Improved cooperation with regulatory bodies and federal programs, such as the USDA National Organic Program: Currently, Canadian grown hemp may be certified USDA Organic, but U.S. grown hemp may not. Full federal legalization of commercial hemp farming will assert definite legal status of the crop, and charge the USDA with revising its exclusion of U.S. grown hemp from the National Organic Program.
- Protections for interstate commerce of U.S. grown and manufactured hemp products.
- Normalization of finance, banking, insurance and other business proceedings for the hemp industries: American hemp farmers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs face barriers to market entry not experienced by other agricultural and production industries, such as inability to access financing and insurance, and reluctance from major banking institutions to work with hemp businesses.
- Advance research opportunities.
- Ensure access to public water rights for hemp farmers. The Bureau of Reclamation prohibits the use of federally-controlled water to be used for irrigation of industrial hemp crops, as long as the crop’s legal status remains conflated with marihuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Water rights in the Western U.S. have been denied to certain Farm Bill compliant hemp farmers. In response, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), introduced bipartisan legislation in July of 2017, known as The Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act, to allow farmers across the West to use the water they own through private water rights to grow industrial hemp in legal hemp states. Passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will also resolve this issue by restoring hemp as U.S. agricultural commodity.
- Protect the variety of hemp-derived products per a “Whole Plant” definition of hemp. Federal adoption of a “whole plant” legal definition of hemp will further validate the legitimacy of hemp products as non-drug commodities, thus strengthening confidence among consumers and catalyzing the expansion of the U.S. hemp market.
Source: Hemp Industries Association