Industrial hemp has been a part of American agriculture for centuries, and its utility and commercial value have made it a mandatory crop for all American farms. In 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made a landmark decision to permanently protect the sale of hemp foods and skin care products. This was a major step towards the legalization of hemp in the United States. In 2018, the Farm Bill was passed, which expanded hemp research to include hemp under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act.
This bill also established the National Hemp Production Program, which provides federal regulatory oversight of hemp production in the United States. Under this program, states can enact their own regulatory schemes for growing hemp through their Department of Agriculture. In addition, eligible hemp producers are eligible for several NRCS conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the Conservation Management Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and the Regional Conservation Partnerships Program. Licensed hemp producers must declare the planted area along with their license number to the local FSA office.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky played a major role in the passage of this bill. Kentucky is one of the best places to grow hemp in the world, and before the ban, the state had a strong hemp sector. While McConnell is a hemp hero, advocates should hesitate to label him a cannabis defender; he remains a staunch opponent of marijuana reform and his role in the Senate could be an obstacle to legislation passed by Democrats in the 116th Congress. Hemp will be highly regulated in the United States for both personal and industrial production. Any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered hemp-free cannabis or marijuana under federal law and would therefore have no legal protection under this new legislation.
Under both programs, hemp will be insurable if grown in containers and in accordance with federal regulations, applicable state or tribal laws, and the terms of the crop insurance policy.