The new law will make it possible to buy crop insurance for hemp, erasing some of the risk for farmers who want to expand into the new market, and allow hemp to be moved across state lines, expanding options for exports and sales.
Miller said that most banks and credit card companies have avoided the industry altogether because the legal status of hemp has been in flux for years. Large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have also waited on the sidelines, interested in selling hemp products but unwilling to take the risk, he said.
State records show that most licensed hemp farmers are small hobbyists, farming only a few acres, but commercial-scale hemp farming is rising quickly, in part because the industry is recruiting struggling tobacco farmers. This year, as least seven of the state’s top 10 hemp farmers came from tobacco-growing backgrounds.
Hemp, which is closely related to marijuana but has no psychoactive effect, has been classified as a controlled substance under federal law for decades. The Farm Bill removes this designation and reclassifies hemp as an agricultural product, legally distancing hemp from pot, which is still illegal to grow in most states.
Tennesseans have been able to farm hemp for five years through a closely monitored government pilot program, and the new law doesn’t change that. William Freeman, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said anyone who wants to grow hemp is still required to be licensed by the state, but that licensed farmers will now be allowed to take their harvest across state lines. This provides hemp farmers and processors with “new options and increased markets.”
There is one additional gray area of research moving forward. Under current law, any cannabis-based research conducted in the United States must use research-grade cannabis from the nation’s sole provider of the product: the Marijuana Program at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research. That setup exists because of cannabis’s Schedule I status. However, if hemp-derived CBD is no longer listed on the federal schedules, it will raise questions among medical and scientific researchers studying CBD products and their effects, as to whether they are required to get their products from Mississippi. This will likely require additional guidance from FDA (the Food and Drug Administration who oversees drug trials), DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration who mandates that research-grade cannabis be sourced from Mississippi), and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse who administers the contract to cultivate research-grade cannabis) to help ensure researchers do not inadvertently operate out of compliance.
First, as noted above, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC, per section 10113 of the Farm Bill. Any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered non-hemp cannabis—or marijuana—under federal law and would thus face no legal protection under this new legislation.
Cannabidiol or CBD is made legal—under specific circumstances
Redefining Urban and Suburban America
Even CBD products produced by state-legal, medical, or adult-use cannabis programs are illegal products under federal law, both within states and across state lines. This legal reality is an important distinction for consumer protection. There are numerous myths about the legality of CBD products and their availability. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, there will be more broadly available, legal, CBD products; however, this does not mean that all CBD products are legal moving forward. Knowing your producer and whether they are legal and legitimate will be an important part of consumer research in a post-2018 Farm Bill world.
Ultimately, the Farm Bill legalizes hemp, but it doesn’t create a system in which people can grow it as freely as they can grow tomatoes or basil. This will be a highly regulated crop in the United States for both personal and industrial production.
This week, Congress agreed to the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill, and President Trump is expected to sign the legislation within days. But this is not your typical farm bill. While it provides important agricultural and nutritional policy extensions for five years, the most interesting changes involve the cannabis plant. Typically, cannabis is not part of the conversation around farm subsidies, nutritional assistance, and crop insurance. Yet, this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strong support of and leadership on the issue of hemp has thrust the cannabis plant into the limelight.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill hemp is treated like other agricultural commodities in many ways. This is an important point. While there are provisions that heavily regulate hemp, and concerns exist among law enforcement—rightly or wrongly—that cannabis plants used to derive marijuana will be comingled with hemp plants, this legislation makes hemp a mainstream crop. Several provisions of the Farm Bill include changes to existing provisions of agricultural law to include hemp. One of the most important provisions from the perspective of hemp farmers lies in section 11101. This section includes hemp farmers’ protections under the Federal Crop Insurance Act. This will assist farmers who, in the normal course of agricultural production, face crop termination (crop losses). As the climate changes and as farmers get used to growing this “new” product, these protections will be important.