After a long last, it's finally happened. The 2018 Farm Bill has made it out of conference and has been approved by the Senate. It currently awaits approval from the House, which is expected this week. If Donald Trump signs the 2018 Farm Bill before the current legislative session ends on December 21, industrial hemp will be legal under U.S. federal law. Though we still are likely a few years out from full marijuana legalization, it appears that 2019 is going to be the “Year of Hemp” if Washington D.C. can make this happen before the deadline. Now, we'll turn to the long awaited hemp-related text of the 2018 Farm Bill, as agreed to by the House and Senate. A copy of the full 2018 Farm Bill is available, via the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, here.
Some key provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill remain. “Industrial hemp” still means parts of the cannabis plant, whether growing or not, with less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Cannabis with more than 0.3% is still considered marijuana and is still classified as a schedule I substance. Additionally, the 2014 Farm Bill's hemp provisions will continue for a year after the 2018 Farm Bill is signed. That means that the agricultural pilot programs that we know and love will stick around for a little bit longer.
However, the new version of the Farm Bill differs significantly in that industrial hemp is explicitly defined to include “all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers” of industrial hemp. Technically, this isn't necessarily a change in the sense that industry stakeholders (including yours truly) have long interpreted the 2014 Farm Bill to make derivatives and cannabinoids from industrial hemp legal. Now that interpretation has been codified into US law.
The CSA will also explicitly exempt “hemp” from the definition of marijuana. That means that the CSA will acknowledge two different types of cannabis, hemp and marijuana. Hemp is an agricultural commodity. Marijuana is a controlled substance. The problems that plague the marijuana industry including the lack of access to banking, bankruptcy, and federal intellectual property protections should no longer impact businesses dealing solely in industrial hemp. This distinction will also likely lead to increased research by the FDA and other agencies, and remove any question as to whether industrial hemp producers are subject to IRC 280e, which prohibits the taking of deductions related to the trafficking of Schedule I or II controlled substance.
The questions of the interstate transfer of industrial hemp is also addressed. Section 10114 of the 2018 Farm Bill states the following:
TRANSPORTATION OF HEMP AND HEMP PRODUCTS. — No State or Indian Tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (as added by section 10113) [the provisions on industrial hemp] through the State or the territory of the Indian Tribe, as applicable.
The 2018 Farm Bill also gives Indian tribes the authority to regulate industrial hemp. This is an important change as the Menominee tribe, who's territory falls within the state of Wisconsin had its initial hemp crop destroyed by DEA agents. A Federal Court ruled that the 2014 Farm Bill required that hemp be cultivated in compliance with state law and therefore, because Wisconsin had not implemented an agricultural pilot program to research industrial hemp, that the Menominee tribe could not legally cultivate hemp. The 2018 Bill explicitly gives tribes the ability to implement programs allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp.
One of the reasons the 2014 Farm Bill's hemp provisions have been so murky is that no federal agency was given regulatory authority over hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill addresses this by appointing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA will oversee a state or tribe's regulatory authority over industrial hemp. The state or tribe will submit a plan to monitor and regulate the production of industrial hemp and the USDA will have 60 days to review the plans. Plans must track the land where hemp is cultivated, procedures for testing hemp and disposing of non-compliant hemp, and indicate how the state will enforce against violations of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The 2018 Farm Bill covers penalties for violations of approved state or tribal plans and breaks them into the following categories:
- Negligent Violations occur when a hemp producer unintentionally violates a state or tribal plan for hemp cultivation by failing to provide a legal description of the land where hemp will be cultivated, failing to obtain the required license or authorization from the state or tribe, or produces cannabis with more than 0.3% THC. Producers who commit a negligent violation shall enter into and comply with a plan established by a state or tribe to correct the violation. The corrective action plan must include a date by which the producer corrects the violation and require that the producer periodically report to the state or tribe on compliance for no less than two years. Producers who commit negligent violations will not be subject to criminal or civil enforcement action beyond agreeing to submit to a corrective action plan. However, if a producer commits three negligent violations within a five-year window
- Other violations occur when a hemp producer acts with a “culpable mental state greater than negligence.” Other violations could cover things like intentionally growing THC-rich marijuana under the guise of industrial hemp or completely disregarding the industrial hemp rules. Other violations will be referred to the Department of Justice or the “chief law enforcement officer of the State” where the industrial hemp is grown.
The 2018 Farm Bill will prohibit “any person convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance” under state or federal law before, on, or after the date when the Farm Bill passes to produce hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill or participate in a state or tribal hemp program for a period of 10 years following the date of conviction. This prohibition will not apply to any person lawfully growing hemp with a license, registration, or authorization under a 2014 Farm Bill agricultural pilot program prior to the 2018 Farm Bill enactment. In addition, anyone who makes a false statement on an industrial hemp application will also be banned from the industry.
Finally, the 2018 Farm Bill would also extend federal crop insurance coverage to industrial hemp, meaning that the feds will actually insure a cannabis crop. Hemp producers can also apply for USDA certification and grants, as with other agricultural commodities.
Expect us to write more on this in the near term. This is an important day in the history of cannabis reform and will have a major and positive impact on the cannabis industry.