Our congressfolk are hard at work this week negotiating a new farm bill before the old one expires on Sept. 30. We hope, anyway.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed their own versions of a 2018 Farm Bill this year, and they are running out of time to reconcile a unified bill. There are some marked differences between the two: The Senate version preserves conservation incentives for farmers and nutritional aid programs like SNAP that the House bill guts completely, which has led to some serious debate in the waning hours of Sunday's deadline.
But the one thing both factions of Congress agree upon is the Hemp Farming Act, buried within the Bill's 641 pages. The act would remove the hemp plant from the federal definition of “marihuana” as defined by the Controlled Substances Act, which currently classifies it as a Schedule 1 illegal drug. Under the new rules, hemp would still be defined as a type of “the plant Cannabis sativa" with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on "a dry weight basis, including the seeds and its derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not."
Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the redefinition of low-THC cannabis would free up water rights and federal agricultural grants for hemp farmers and make the national banking system accessible to farmers and others involved its cultivation—a sticking point thus far for the legal cannabis industry.
What this means is that growing hemp would be legal again for the first time since the 1950s, presenting American farmers with viable economic generator some estimate to be worth anywhere from one to $2 billion within two years.
It also greenlights a massive wave of innovation and growth for products containing CBD, the non-psychoactive component in hemp/cannabis that powers products for pain relief, neurological support and other therapeutic properties. Its inclusion in pet supplements alone has experts projecting a three-to-five time increase in the animal treat industry.
No doubt, hemp is a money maker for American farmers.
“It’s time to remove the federal hurdles and give [farmers] the opportunity to seize its full potential and once again become the national leader for hemp production. That is why I strongly advocated for this measure to be included in the Farm Bill,” said Sen. McConnell said last June.
Sounds like a slam-dunk way to spur the economy and put farmers back to work. But the Farm Bill committee still needs to resolve the other hot button issues, and if they don't get it together by September 30, lawmakers will either be forced to pass a resolution to extend the 2017 Farm Bill and give Congress an extra month to deliberate or force a government shutdown.
We're not complaining, but what kind of nutty world are we living in that they only thing politicians can agree upon is that America needs to grow more cannabis?