Hemp production was banned in the United States in 1937, with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act.
HEMPis legal in the United States with serious restrictions, and HEMP research is still important. Hemp producers receive the same treatment as other farmers, and Article 7501 of the Farm Act expands hemp research to include hemp under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act. This rule allows other agencies and industries, such as financial institutions and crop insurance providers, to begin establishing their own guidelines and procedures for treating industrial hemp.
It is to be hoped that, with the publication of this rule, the banking industry will develop appropriate guidance that will allow farmers to obtain funding and use other financial services if they produce hemp. The Farm Act also allows for the cultivation of hemp in general, not just pilot programs to study market interest in hemp-derived products. These new regulations provide much needed guidance for farmers and others involved in industrial hemp production. The rule re-emphasizes an earlier USDA ruling that interstate transportation is legal, even if the shipment goes through a state that does not allow hemp cultivation.
This year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's strong support and leadership on the issue of hemp have brought the cannabis plant into the spotlight. The Farm Bill legalizes hemp, but it doesn't create a system where people can grow it as freely as they can grow tomatoes or basil. Industrial hemp is derived from the same species of Cannabis sativa as marijuana, but it has lower concentrations of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), reducing psychoactive effects. Some states are content to allow hemp to cross their borders, but they don't allow cannabis varieties with a THC level greater than 0.3% to do so.
McConnell's efforts have been instrumental in getting provisions on hemp included in the legislation. While it is impressive that the department has been able to draft a complete set of regulations for a complicated subject in a short period of time, questions remain about some aspects of hemp production. The standard states that a producer does not commit a negligent offence if he produces plants that exceed the acceptable level of THC in hemp, as long as he makes a reasonable effort to cultivate the plant and does not present a THC test greater than 0.5% by dry weight. Several provisions of the Farm Bill include changes to current provisions of agricultural legislation to include hemp.
Federal policies, reinforced by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the war on drugs. However, many members of the defense community hope that hemp policy reforms under the Farm Bill will serve as a first step toward broader cannabis reform.