A Christmas Miracle: President Trump Signs Farm Bill; Legalizing Hemp (and CBD) Nationwide
Today is a great day for your endocannabinoid system.
President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, officially ending a long and contentious battle for this multi-faceted bill.
Among the many things this bill accomplishes for farmers and Americans alike is the removal of industrial hemp from regulation under the Controlled Substances Act. This is truly a landmark decision.
This groundbreaking change makes hemp a legal agricultural commodity for the first time in more than eighty years.
But the legalization of hemp is actually just a small part of this nearly trillion-dollar bill. It additionally will provide billions in aid to U.S. farmers who have suffered the consequences of the current administration’s trade war, as China slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports, according to The Washington Post.
The $867 billion farm bill was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on Dec. 11, and found approval in the House of Representatives on Dec. 12 with strong bipartisan support from both branches.
Today, President Trump signed the bill, and with the stroke of a pen, he officially legalized hemp nationwide. This bill has no impact on cannabis (cannabis is legally defined as any plant in the cannabis family which contains more than 0.3% THC), although there is a separate bill in the Senate dealing with the potential end of cannabis prohibition.
The Farm Bill was originally authored by US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Farm Bill’s passage for the US hemp industry,” according to Doug Fine, author of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution. “It’s basically the starting gun.”
Its passage clears up a legal gray area which had emerged as CBD (cannabidiol) and other cannabinoids have exploded in popularity, mainly due to their numerous proven (and unproven) benefits and their lack of intoxicating effects.
CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabis spp. or Cannabis), a plant more well-known colloquially as “marijuana” or cannabis or hemp.
Hemp is a specific strain of the cannabis plant with extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main intoxicating ingredient in the cannabis; however, hemp does produce smallamounts of CBD (cannabidiol).
Previously, the hemp plant had been counted along with cannabis as being federally classified as a Schedule 1 Drug, despite the plant producing little-to-no THC and being packed with medicinal benefits.
Overall, it has been a great year for CBD, as earlier this year, the FDA approved the first iteration of CBD as a prescription drug (Epidiolex). Additionally, the cannabinoid has exploded into the mainstream as its benefits continue to be discovered by countless Americans.
Chronicling Hemp’s History in the US
For over 80 years, hemp was banned nationwide along with cannabis, despite its main use being the production of fiber, cloth as well as the nutritional value of the hemp seed.
Hemp was once was a vital crop in the US, especially in America’s early history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were actually hemp farmers.
The crop was highly valued because it produced some of the best canvas, rope and even provided feed for livestock (which in turn provided cannabinoids to humans by eating the livestock).
Hemp was also highly utilized during many of the early US Wars, especially during the Revolutionary War. Each US warship and merchant vessel required miles of hemp line and tons of hempen canvas, according to Farm Collector.
Hemp fiber was so important to the young Republic that farmers were compelled by patriotic duty to grow it, and were even allowed to pay taxes with it. George Washington grew hemp and encouraged all citizens to sow hemp widely. Thomas Jefferson bred improved hemp varieties, and invented a special brake for crushing the plant’s stems during fiber processing.
The first US flag was woven with hemp. The Declaration of Independence was even drafted on hemp paper.
Ultimately, there was a decline in hemp’s use as other options such as cotton became cheaper and more widely available. Slowly all the hemp farms began to convert to other agricultural options as demand decreased. By the end of the Civil War, Kentucky was the only state with a significant hemp industry until the start of World War I,
Hemp’s use as a fiber crop was crippled by politics. On August 2, 1937, the federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act, aimed at regulating the narcotic varieties of cannabis. Even then, the US Government distinguished hemp from cannabis and it wasn’t included as part of the Act. The new law instead turned over the regulation of hemp production to the Department of Revenue, which was then responsible for licensing all hemp growers.
“(The Marijuana Tax Act) didn’t really affect us as growers, other than we had to pay a small tax and sign a paper stating that we wouldn’t use the plant as a drug,” explains hemp farmer Junior Prange to the Farm Collector.
“What really killed the hemp industry in the 1950s was the availability of cheap synthetic fibers.”
Hemp made a brief comeback as World War II unfolded. The USDA’s Hemp for Victory campaign successfully convinced growers to again embrace hemp.
With new hemp technology developed, numerous hemp processing plants were planned to help the production of hemp for World War II. These never materialized as the War ended, along with demand for domestic hemp fiber. Many farmers were left high and dry with empty or partially constructed plants, and numerous cancelled hemp contracts. By 1958, the last significant hemp crop in the U.S. had been harvested and processed.
Hemp Reemerges in the 1990s
In the 1990s, cannabis use in the US was equated with that of Schedule I drugs such as cocaine or heroin. The War on Drugs may have been a failure but it still had a strong effect on how the public viewed cannabis.
Even President Bill Clinton was found to have smoked cannabis in his youth and he inexplicably claimed he didn’t inhale. That’s how bad the stigma around this plant was.
Anti-drug commercials went to great lengths to try and attribute marijuana as a lethal and dangerous gateway drug. In other words, even if people didn’t consider cannabis to be as lethal as heroin or cocaine, they still understood it to be a drug which introduced the youth of America to other drugs and as such it was demonized.
There was no real distinguishing to the public on the differences between hemp and cannabis. But thanks to the New Age movement, hemp was slowly reintroduced to the market.
Ultimately, the Internet may be most responsible for this change. Slowly people began to realize how their cheap clothes at the Gap were actually made in horrible sweatshops by helpless children in third-world countries such as China and Vietnam. The Internet not only gave the facts but it also showed in detail on videos what was going on in these places. This slowly brought on the reemergence of hemp as a cotton substitute which was ultimately healthier for the environment and more durable.
At the same time, a health craze was also slowly taking fold in America. Thanks again to the Internet, people began to discover how animals were treated horribly in farms which ultimately led to a new interest in going vegetarian or vegan.
Becoming a vegetarian or going vegan requires finding new ways to get proteins as Americans mainly got their protein from meat and milk-based products. Enter the hemp seed – one of the most complete sources of protein and omega fats.
One other key aspect was that Americans were reintroduced to alternative medicines such as ginseng, echinacea and ultimately hemp. This laid the groundwork for discovering that hemp was not only healthy in a nutritional aspect, but also that the plant itself had healing qualities.
It was also in the 1990s that scientists made a groundbreaking discovery which greatly altered how cannabis was viewed in the scientific community.
Raphael Mechoulam and Lisa Matsuda were among the scientists who discovered the endocannabinoid system – a core system found in all humans and mammals. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining many of our normal bodily functions and is possibly the single-most important system within our entire bodies – responsible for maintaining homeostasis. Basically, if our endocannabinoid system is not running properly or if you are cannabinoid-deficient, your whole body could be at risk. Because of prohibition, everybody’s body was out of whack and we were all cannabinoid-deficient.
All of these factors came into play as a perfect storm which allowed hemp to begin to explode in popularity from multiple directions. Even cannabis has now been legalized in multiple states.
Reclassification of Hemp by the DEA
The reintroduction of hemp to the mainstream led to the DEA clarifying the cannabis law to not include the hemp plant. The updated rule specified hemp as a different and very specific strain of the plant which only produced trace amounts of THC (0.3% or less) and was thus legal.
Savvy entrepreneur’s soon realized that this clarification by the DEA meant that CBD could be legally extracted from hemp plants, provided that they were not grown in the US, and with the provision that it was only derived from the seeds and stalks of the plant – not the flowers or buds.
While this meant numerous plants had to be used to simply derive small amounts of CBD, it still allowed for the legal loophole and billion-dollar industry was born.
Even with the loophole, small business owners and farmers (hemp farming has recently begun to become legalized in a select few states in test pilot programs) were left in no-man’s-land as the industry sector conflicted with state and federal legislation.
What Are the Next Steps?
Now that President Trump has signed the bill, growing hemp could become fully legal in the United States by as early as January of 2019.
While the move has been widely characterized as outright legalization, it’s important to note that strict regulations still apply, according to the Boston Globe. Although hemp will no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, prospective growers will have to submit cultivation plans to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), either through the state government or the USDA itself.
Still this is a positive development.
Outside of the obvious benefits to the industry, which include the removal of any clouded legality issues for businesses who distribute CBD, the Farm Bill will also mean a better quality of hemp and CBD products will become available thanks to expected improvements to regulation and extraction of CBD.
Farmers will be able to grown hemp and make a decent living doing so. This will be a huge boost for small farmers who have really struggled since the start of the 20th century (and the rise of the huge farming corporations).
According to government data, since the Great Depression, two-thirds of small family farms have disappeared. Traditional crops such as corn, soybeans, etc.—have extremely thin profit margins and making a living is difficult.
Perhaps even more importantly, scientists can now investigate the the hemp plant legally (including applying for funding and grants) and begin to truly understand how cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes all work together (The Entourage Effect) to produce the medicinal benefits of the plant.
Beyond those changes, hemp is actually a miraculous plant with numerous uses. Hempcrete will now be used as an alternative and sustainable housing option. Hemp plastic is cheaper than some alternatives and is also biodegradable. Hemp can even be used as an ingredient to make biodiesel. Even the clothing industry will be disrupted as people may consider turning to American-made and sustainable clothing instead of cotton which growing uses more water and is harsher for the environment, Let’s not forget that most clothes we were are made is sweatshops were workers get paid less than a dollar a day.
These changes won’t happen overnight but within a few years we can expect some of these changes to take affect.
For once, bipartisanship worked and a meaningful piece of legislation was passed. Hopefully, this is just the first of many more laws which will be put into place to end the war with one of the most nutritious, healthy and vital crops to humanity.