The 2018 Farm Bill will include a provision to legalize industrial hemp, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the top Republican and Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee confirmed on Thursday.
Thanks for your hard work, @SenPatRoberts, for our farmers, rural communities and all Americans. Pleased that my provision to legalize industrial hemp is included in the Farm Bill. https://t.co/FSLY3CugIN
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) November 29, 2018
Lawmakers in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees announced that they’d reached an agreement in principle on the large-scale food and agriculture policy legislation and were in the process of finalizing “legal and report language.” But while there’s still “more work to do,” it seems that hemp legalization made the cut.
— Teaganne Finn (@Teaganne_Finn) November 29, 2018
The Congressional Budget Office is currently scoring the bill. Once that’s complete and language is officially filed, the Farm Bill will be teed up for up-or-down votes in both chambers of Congress and, pending approval, sent to the president’s desk. Lawmakers are hoping to pass the bill before the end of the year.
McConnell has been the chief proponent of the hemp legalization provision. He spoke frequently about the economic benefits of legalizing the lucrative crop and said regulation should be in the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rather than the Justice Department.
While the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill contained the hemp language, the House version was silent on the issue, leaving it up to a bicameral conference committee to settle the issue.
Hemp would be defined as all parts of the plant—including seeds and extracts—as long as they contain less than 0.3 percent THC, according to VoteHemp.The crop would also be entirely removed from the Controlled Substances Act under the legislation.
States that want to be primary regulators are required to submit applications outlining their regulatory plan to the USDA, which will have 60 days to make a decision.
While lawmakers in both chambers spent months negotiating on other aspects of the wide-ranging bill, the hemp legalization provision has enjoyed bipartisan support.
“For the first time in nearly a hundred years, commercial hemp production will no longer be federally prohibited in the United States,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a press release. “This represents a significant and long overdue shift in US policy.
It remains to be seen whether the final language is any different from the version the Senate approved. In particular, advocates will be watching to see if the conference report contains a provision that would ban people with felony drug convictions from cultivating and selling hemp.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a comment from McConnell and NORML.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.