For centuries, hemp was a staple crop in North America, used for its fibers in the manufacture of ropes and textiles. But in the United States, hemp was declared illegal due to its association with marijuana, a victim of the War on Drugs. Despite this, advances are being made through federal hemp policy and state marijuana laws. Let's take a look at why hemp was made illegal and how the new Farm Bill is changing this.
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first federal law to criminalize cannabis, including hemp. This was followed by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which declared all cannabis plants illegal. This meant that hemp, which is made from the same plant species (Cannabis sativa) as marijuana, was also banned. However, this year, the strong support and leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has brought hemp into the spotlight.
The new Farm Bill does not create a completely free system in which people or companies can grow hemp whenever and wherever they want. But it does expand hemp research by including it in the Critical Agricultural Materials Act and removes hemp-derived products from their Schedule I category under the Controlled Substances Act. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the cultivation of hemp as the responsible federal regulatory agency. 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.
Section 7605 further expands protections for hemp research and the conditions under which such research can and should be conducted.In addition, any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered marijuana under federal law and would therefore have no legal protection under this new legislation. This means that while legal issues still persist (especially with regard to consumer products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp), regulatory authorities and society in general are becoming more familiar with hemp.Kentucky is one of the best places in the world to grow hemp, and before the ban, the state had a strong hemp sector. As farmers get used to growing this “new product”, these protections will be important. Even the Federal Narcotics Office (FBN), which had banned marijuana, encouraged the cultivation of hemp during World War II.The War on Drugs may seem like a distant memory now that advances are being made through federal hemp policy and state marijuana laws.
The new Farm Bill has opened up opportunities for research into hemp and removed restrictions on its sale, transportation or possession. While legal issues still remain, regulatory authorities and society in general are becoming more familiar with this versatile crop.