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Congress Considers Three Hemp Amendments To Farm Bill

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A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers submitted three far-reaching cannabis amendments to a House agricultural bill on Friday. Two of the measures would legalize hemp, a non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, and another would allow banks to provide financial services to hemp businesses.

The first, introduced by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Jared Polis (D-CO), would remove hemp from the list of federally banned substances.

A second measure, submitted by Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with Polis, would also legalize hemp in an approach similar to pending legislation recently filed in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Another proposal, submitted by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), seeks to amend the pending Farm Bill by creating “a safe harbor for financial institutions that provide services to hemp legitimate businesses” that operate under state-authorized research programs in accordance with the provisions of an earlier version of the Farm Bill that was enacted in 2014.

The House members’ amendments will be put up for consideration by the body’s Rules Committee next week; but that panel is headed by chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), who has routinely declined to allow floor votes on cannabis-related measures. Whether or not Sessions clears the cannabis measures for consideration, the overall Farm Bill is expected to go before the full House later next week.

McConnell’s stepped up push for hemp legalization could spur his party colleagues in the other chamber to allow one or more of the amendments to move forward. But even if House action does not occur, cannabis provisions could still make it into the final version of the Farm Bill. That’s because the Senate majority leader has already said he intends to insert the text of his standalone hemp bill into his chamber’s version of the legislation this month. That means the language would be up for consideration by the bicameral conference committee that later merges the House and Senate bills into one proposal to be sent to President Trump.

In 2014, McConnell successfully attached language to prevent federal interference in hemp research in that year’s version of the Farm Bill.

“Who knows how big it could be,” McConnell said in an interview last month, referring to the economic potential of hemp for rural states. “Tobacco was awfully big. I don’t know whether it could be that big or not. But there won’t be an argument about whether it’s not good for you.”

Mitch McConnell Steps Up Hemp Legalization Push With Legislative Move

“The momentum for hemp farming is growing fast and has great potential to generate job and economic development,” Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, told Marijuana Moment in an email. “The three proposed hemp amendments to the Farm Bill will help advance the industry and we strongly support them.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Hemp Legalization Is Officially Headed to President Trump’s Desk For Signature

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The 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp, is officially headed to President Donald Trump’s desk. The House passed the legislation on Wednesday, one day after the Senate approved it.

It’s been decades since the ban on hemp was imposed—a byproduct of the federal government’s war on marijuana and other drugs. The ban, it seems, will be lifted in a matter of days.

The House passed the bill, 369-47.

The votes come after months of debate over other aspects of the wide-ranging agriculture bill. But the hemp legalization provision, shepherded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has received bipartisan support at every step of the legislative process.

Hemp legalization made it through a conference committee where the Senate and House Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions of the bill. McConnell marked the occasion this week by signing the conference report with a hemp pen, which he said on Wednesday that the president was free to use to sign the bill into law.

The hemp provision would allow U.S. farmers to grow, process and sell the crop. The Justice Department would no longer have jurisdiction over hemp under the legislation; rather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would lightly regulate it.

One element of the hemp language created tension between lawmakers and advocates. The original Senate-passed bill prohibited people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, but a compromise was reached last week that limited that ban in the final version to 10 years after the last offense.

House Democrats in the Agriculture Committee listed hemp legalization as one of several reasons they were calling for a “yes” vote on the legislation.

According to VoteHemp, if the president signs the bill before the year’s end, it will take effect on January 1, 2019.

Mitch McConnell Says Trump Can Borrow His Hemp Pen To Sign Farm Bill Into Law

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Marijuana Industry Border Issues Would Be Solved Under New Congressional Bill

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Marijuana can really mess up border and immigration issues for people who partake in consumption or participate in the industry, but that would change if a new bill being introduced in Congress this week is enacted.

Under current U.S. laws, people who admit to past cannabis use or who work for or invest in marijuana businesses can be barred from visiting the country under certain circumstances. And marijuana consumption, even if it is legal under state law, can lead to an immigrant being deported.

The new legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections For Legal Entry Act, would provide exceptions for conduct that “was lawful in the State, Indian Tribe, or foreign country in which the conduct occurred” or that was “subsequently made lawful under the law or regulation of such jurisdiction,” according to a draft obtained by Marijuana Moment.

The bill, known as the MAPLE Act for short—surely a nod to the leaf on Canada’s flag—is being filed on Wednesday by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

U.S. border policies on entry by marijuana industry participants were slightly loosened just ahead of the launch of Canada’s legal marijuana market in October to clarify that people working for cannabis businesses are generally admissible to the U.S., with the caveat that “if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

And that’s a key exception. Several Canadians traveling to a cannabis industry conference in Las Vegas last month were detained for hours, with one investor being given a lifetime ban from visiting the U.S.

While there is almost certainly not enough time for Blumenauer’s proposal to be considered and voted on by the end of the year, its language could easily be adopted into new legislation after the 116th Congress is seated in January.

In October, the congressman laid out a plan for a step-by-step approach to federally legalizing marijuana in 2019 in a memo to fellow House Democrats.

Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new MAPLE Act below:

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Chicago Mayor Wants Legal Marijuana Revenue To Fund Pensions

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Tax revenue from legal marijuana sales should be earmarked to fund pension programs, the mayor of Chicago said on Wednesday.

“Illinois legislators will be taking a serious look next year at legalizing recreational marijuana,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said in a speech to the City Council. “Should they follow that course, a portion of that revenue could go toward strengthening our pension funds and securing the retirement of the workers who depend on them.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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