Today, the Farm Bill was signed into law, officially legalising hemp in the United States for the first time in over 40 years. Under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, as it's officially called, states can now start to produce hemp and hemp-derived products, with supervision by the Department of Agriculture.
State applicants, who submit plans to their respective secretaries of agriculture, in coordination with their governors and federal agriculture administrators, would need to include their methods for tracking land use for hemp production and ensure that their crop contains less than .3 percent THC. Under the new law, states would not be allowed to ban the transportation of hemp products within their jurisdictions, however production and sales would only be allowed in states that have approved programs.
In addition, the Farm Bill includes a number of provisions for research on hemp and hemp cultivation. What's more, CBD derived from hemp would be left out of the Controlled Substances Act in states with approved hemp programs — however, CBD will remain a Schedule 1 prohibited substance at the federal level. The new law also has no impact on the FDA's ban on CBD products, or whether it will regulate them in the future.
Even so, the cannabis industry applauds the Farm Bill's passage as a positive step in the right direction. "It's a monumental piece of legislation that will open the doors to a huge amount of research into the plant's uses and will really catapult the U.S. as a world leader in hemp production," Joanna Hossack - an attorney with Los Angeles cannabis law firm Clark Neubert LLP says. "It's also important in reducing stigma around the plant generally. Obviously hemp legalisation doesn't lift the major barriers facing the cannabis market, so our work definitely isn't done. But today is an important day."
According to Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Farm bill is a "concrete sign that 'reefer madness,' which first led to [hemp's] criminalisation is finally coming to an end." Many in the industry now hope and predict that this may be the first domino to fall in freeing the cannabis plant, altogether.
The farm bill will cost roughly $400 billion over five years or $867 billion over 10 years.
The change sets the stage for greater expansion in an industry already seeing explosive growth because of growing demand for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp that many see as a way to better health.
Federal legalisation could triple the overall hemp market to $2.5 billion by 2022, with $1.3 billion of those sales from hemp-derived CBD products, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm.