Included in the U.S. Senate’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill is language from U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s industrial hemp legislation that would legalize production and sales of the plant. The move comes four years after McConnell inserted industrial hemp research pilot program guidance into the 2014 Farm Bill. Since then, at least 35 states have taken up the offer and developed industrial hemp programs; those states will be eligible to pursue a legal market in the event this latest agricultural bill is approved.
After introducing his Hemp Farming Act of 2018, 28 co-sponsors joined him in the Senate. He later announced his plan to push that legislation into the broader Farm Bill.
“Securing the Hemp Farming Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill has been a top priority of mine,” McConnell said in a public statement. “As a result of the hemp pilot program, which I secured in the 2014 Farm Bill, Kentucky’s farmers, processors, and manufacturers have begun to show the potential for this versatile crop.”
In short, the hemp language would remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states to regulate the production, commerce and research of the plant. (Industrial hemp refers to the cannabis plant with less than 0.3-percent THC content. Hemp is used for a broad array of end products, from clothing and rope to construction materials and biofuels.)
"Hemp has proven itself as a job-creating growth industry with far-reaching economic potential. It’s just common sense that farmers in Oregon and across our country should be allowed to cultivate this cash crop."
U.S. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Farm Bill co-sponsor
President Donald Trump hasn’t overly signaled support for industrial hemp, but he’s grown somewhat vocal in his tacit approval of states rights in the cannabis space lately.
“We don't want to talk about the hypotheticals that we will or won't sign,” Marc Short, the legislative affairs assistant to the president, told U.S. Farm Report. “The reality is we expect the House to pass a farm bill with work requirements this summer. We expect the Senate bill to pass this summer. The president's very eager to sign a farm bill. He wants to deliver on that for farmers across America.”
A vote is expected by July 4, according to Reuters.
Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock