What the New Farm Bill Means for the Hemp Industry
Since the Farm Bill in 2014, the CBD industry has thrived. As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), stated, “Last year alone, Kentucky hemp recorded more than $16 million in product sales.” This success was only a mere four years after a ban on cultivating hemp was lifted from the state. Under high regulation, Kentucky proved the world was ready for CBD.
With hemp exemplifying a viable asset to the economy, Congress and the president signed off on a new 2018 Farm Bill. This bill has provisions that will lift the ban of hemp cultivation on a federal level. Thought $16 million was impressive? The sky’s the limit now! Here is what the new Farm Bill means for the hemp industry and CBD products.
Why Was Hemp Illegal?
Until 2014, it was illegal to grow hemp in the United States. That’s because hemp is a member of the cannabis genus. This makes hemp cousins to the infamous plant, marijuana.
Since the Marihuana Act of 1937, cannabis has been under a federal prohibition. Many feared that hemp contained psychoactive elements that altered minds akin to those in marijuana.
This may sound ridiculous today, but this was a day and age when tuberculosis was knocking out over 6% of the population! We didn’t have the science then to explain why hemp can’t get you high. Therefore, hemp felt the brunt of the prohibition.
With this ban, hemp clothes were replaced with cotton, hemp ropes were swapped out with twine and hemp oil gave way to pharmaceuticals. As science and technology evolved, studies on hemp were few and far between. It became the old case of “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” Due to lack of research, the stigma on hemp stuck for centuries.
Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana
Funding for scientific research has blown up since the initial prohibition on Cannabis sativa almost a century ago. As scientists continued to go down the rabbit hole of therapeutic agents, hemp eventually made its way into the discussion. Finally, science confirmed what hemp advocates have been saying all along. Hemp can’t get you high.
What makes Cannabis sativa such a unique genus is that it contains tons of unique phytochemicals and cannabinoids. These are chemical compounds that not only comprise the genetic makeup of hemp but give the plant its benefits as well.
In marijuana, the main chemical component is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that gives marijuana its psychedelic side effects. The hemp plant, however, contains much fewer traces of THC. The main phytocannabinoid that gives hemp its benefits is cannabidiol (CBD). With this realization, hemp advocates started the long push to legalize hemp. They ran on the platform that hemp is a sustainable plant to use for textile, nutritional and other wellness benefits.
Passing of the 2014 Farm Bill
The passing of the 2014 Farm Bill coincided with the rise of the medical cannabis movement. Kentucky was the first state to push for legislation on hemp cultivation with the passage of Senate Bill 50 in 2013. This became the framework for hemp cultivation across the country. With Kentucky as the willing guinea pigs, the 2014 Farm Bill passed.
Under the 2014 Farm Bill, you were able to legally cultivate hemp under either of these two conditions:
- Your proposal was approved by a state pilot program (Modeled under KY framework)
- It was for educational or scientific research
With that being said, hemp has been heavily regulated by the Justice Department.
Passing of the 2018 Farm Bill
Since the rise of hemp, CBD products have boomed. In fact, the industry is expected to hit $22 billion by the year 2022. As Mitch McConnell witnessed the success of hemp firsthand in his home state, he was more than elated to sign off on an amendment to the Farm Bill.
As Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated in a press release, “Our forefathers would be rolling in their graves if they saw us putting restraints on a versatile product that they grew themselves.” He called the original Farm Bill “a missed opportunity.”
To further exemplify this “missed opportunity,” Kentucky farmer Will Brownlow put the success of hemp into perspective. He first began planting hemp in 2016 for “the novelty” surrounding the plant.
Starting with just 10 acres that year, he now harvests 40 acres worth of hemp. The farmer plans to dedicate up to 80 acres of his 340-acre farm to this sustainable crop by the end of next year.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Mitch McConnell was proud to sign off on hemp legalization in the Senate. In a moment captured on Twitter, the jubilant Majority Senate Leader stated, “Making it official with my hemp pen.” From there, the bill made it easily through the House and landed on President Trump’s desk. Here, he completed the bill which he stated on record that he fully endorses.
What the 2018 Farm Bill Means for Hemp
Due to this provisions of the bill, regulation of the hemp plant is no longer under the watchful eye of the Justice Department. Instead, the Department of Agriculture will oversee the operation.
With this change, if a product tests over 0.3% of THC, the farmer won’t be charged with a federal crime. However, the farmer will be required to lower the plant’s THC levels before production.
Under this deal, people with a history of drug-related crimes will be able to get jobs in the hemp industry. However, they must wait ten years after the date of their conviction.
What the 2018 Farm Bill Means for Farmers
The $867 billion Farm Deal is great for farmers. Prior to the 2014 Farm Bill, most of the hemp products in the United States were being imported from China. Asian countries controlled 70% of the hemp market. With an impending trade war with China coming up, right now is a crucial time for hemp farmers to make their move.
By lifting the prohibition on hemp, farmers are allowed to grow a sustainable crop in a business that Representative Blumenauer described as, “a mainstream, billion-dollar industry that we have made difficult for farmers.” He concluded, “It’s past time Congress gets out of their way.”
Out of their way, they did. In fact, Congress welcomes hemp farmers. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp cultivators can buy crop insurance on their plants. Farm insurance covers crops that don’t survive until harvest. Much like home insurance, this is done to protect the plants in times of inclement weather or a natural disaster.
Due to provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp was classified as a research crop. This made hemp exempt from insurance claims. Now that hemp is overseen by the Department of Agriculture, it makes acres of these crops eligible for insurance.
What the 2018 Farm Bill Means for Consumers
As hemp cultivator Chase Terwilliger explained, the high population and pollution in China causes their hemp products to pick up heavy metals. In turn, these metals were engineering chemical reactions within the genetic makeup of the hemp plants. This turn of events downgrades the potency of the final product.
Plus, anytime you pick a plant, it starts to die. The same goes for hemp. From China to the States, the plant goes through a lot of handling. This stress can increase the oxidation rate of hemp, ultimately destroying a number of crucial phytochemicals. By keeping the travel local, this allows for fresher, higher-quality CBD products.
Also, hemp being readily available opens the door for more research. As we mentioned before, hemp is behind the curve of scientific breakthroughs. In fact, even with half of the nation supporting medicinal cannabis, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved one cannabis drug to date.
With a lot of ground to make up for (and all 50 states onboard), the opportunity to research hemp is more plentiful than ever. Anytime research hits the mainstream, it begins to open the eyes of consumers. Over the next decade or two, the stigma surrounding hemp will lift entirely. Many will look back at the prohibition with confusion, and CBD will continue its meteoric rise to the top of the health and wellness sector. As Rep. Blumenauer concluded, “We have farmers growing thousands of acres of hemp in dozens of states across the U.S. already. You can have hemp products shipped to your doorstep.”
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