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.
It's time the federal gov changes the way it looks at #hemp, which is why Senator @RonWyden and I, along with @SenJeffMerkley, are introducing legislation that will modernize federal law in this area & empower American farmers to explore this promising new market.
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) April 12, 2018
“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.”
“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.