Industrial hemp has been a hot topic in the United States for the past few years. In 2018, the Farm Bill was passed, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and made it legal to cultivate and transport across state lines. This has opened up a multi-billion dollar industry, despite regulatory and legal uncertainty and a devastating global pandemic. In this article, we will explore the legal status of industrial hemp, the changes made by the Farm Bill, and how it affects hemp companies.
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 made hemp a Schedule I controlled substance, making it illegal to cultivate or transport across state lines. This seemed to be a death sentence for the industry, until 2018 when the Farm Bill was passed. Section 7605 of the Farm Bill re-extended protections for hemp research and outlined the conditions under which such research can be conducted. It also included changes to existing provisions of the farm law to include hemp. In addition, section 7501 of the Farm Bill expands research on hemp by including it under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act.
Section 10113 of the Farm Bill states that hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC. In states that choose not to design a regulatory program on hemp, the USDA will build a regulatory program under which hemp growers in those states must apply for licenses and comply with a federally administered program. However, some hemp companies have found themselves struggling with legal confusion over the state of the plant due to lack of communication from law enforcement agencies. Attorneys representing hemp clients have stated that this is an overdue assertion of the legality of cannabis. The strong support and leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the issue of hemp has put the cannabis plant in the spotlight. McConnell has emerged from the Farm Bill as a hemp hero, but advocates should hesitate to label him a cannabis champion; leader McConnell remains a staunch opponent of marijuana reform and his role in the Senate could be an obstacle to legislation passed by Democrats in the 116th Congress. It is true that hemp policy in the United States has been drastically transformed with this new legislation.
The pilot programs allowed to study hemp (often referred to as “industrial hemp”) that were approved by both the United States have opened up a multi-billion dollar industry after just three years. In conclusion, industrial hemp is no longer a Schedule I controlled substance due to changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. This has opened up a multi-billion dollar industry despite regulatory and legal uncertainty and a devastating global pandemic. However, some confusion still exists due to lack of communication from law enforcement agencies. The strong support and leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on this issue has put industrial hemp in the spotlight.