The Farm Bill is usually a fairly perfunctory piece of legislation, almost always passed without much fanfare and without many changes to the way things are handled on American farms. It mostly contains details about farm subsidies and other farm-specific interests. However, sometimes there are big changes that come around in the passage of the Farm Bill, and the 2018 Farm Bill definitely features one of these.
Hemp production has been only allowed in very limited amounts, and for very specific purposes in this country, as a result of reefer madness laws passed during the rise of the Drug War decades ago, due to the plant’s capability of producing CBD, one of the active chemicals in marijuana.
CBD is one of the two (compared to THC) and is the more medically accepted of the two, while THC is the more psychotropic ‘drug’ chemical in the plant. But with medical applications of CBD becoming more and more studied and more and more accepted, hemp farmers have been wanting to use it to farm CBD for the large market that CBD is developing as the drug is better understood. Farmers heretofore have been forced to have very small operations without even being able to bring their product to market in many states, but they are very excited about the possibilities the new 2018 Farm Bill brings for their hemp crops, whatever their goal level of CBD.
The bill was in conference committee, with a joint House-Senate panel referring the bill, once they had hashed out the differences, to each house of Congress. The Senate has already passed their version of the bill, by an overwhelming, veto-proof margin of 87-13. The bill is also expected to pass the House, and will likely be signed by President Trump as soon as it does.
As for hemp farmers, the farm bill is seen a huge win. Until now, hemp farmers have been very limited in what they are allowed to produce by federal law. While many hemp farmers are allowed to grow anything they like in states where marijuana has been legalized (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine), in other states they are specifically limited by the chemical content of their plants. In addition, in order to be allowed to take their hemp to a public market, they until now had been forced to take it to Canada in many cases.
This bill will essentially treat hemp as any other crop. When farmers choose to farm hemp now, they will be able to get subsidies and other benefits from the government as if they had chosen to grow any other legal crop on their farm. The CBD content of their hemp won’t matter, as a majority of states all over the country allow medical use of the CBD as well. The man who owns the single largest estimated hemp farm in the country, Robert Leaker, says that this bill is “incredibly exciting”.
Again, the bill has already passed the Senate, and by a wide margin, so it’s just a waiting game to see when the House takes up the legislation and puts it on President Trump’s desk.