The Hemp Farming Act Of 2018: Explained In Plain English

Black Sports Online
By Robert Littal –

A proposed statute that lawmakers eventually folded into the 2018 United States farm bill, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 cleared the way for hemp cultivation across the nation. Prior to the law’s passing, cannabis — and by extension, hemp — had been illegal for decades. Here’s everything you need to know about the bill that made Cannaflower’s hemp buds legal throughout the country.

Broadly Speaking, What Is the Hemp Farming Act of 2018?

Laws passed between 1937 and 1950 snuffed out industrial hemp production in the United States. In the 1990s, pro-hemp lawmakers started submitting several bills and motions recommending the crop as versatile and valuable enough to be stockpiled.

The campaign steadily grew, and in 2018, legislators folded the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 into law. Specifically, the act removed cannabis products containing less than 0.3 THC — the psychoactive chemical endemic to cannabis plants that cause a “high” — from the Schedule I controlled substances list. It also made the Cannabis sativa plant a regular crop commodity, like wheat or corn.

The legislative shift created a lucrative new agricultural opportunity, and prospective hemp farmers were able to seek legitimate financial assistance and government subsidies to plant cannabis crops for the first time in decades.

What Are the Main Outcomes of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018?

To be clear, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 didn’t make “let’s-get-high” cannabis legal in the United States. It’s a particular statute with limited allowances.

These are the six main points to understand. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018:

  1. Limits THC crop levels to 0.3 percent
  2. Requires hemp flower farmers to obtain USDA approval to grow the crop
  3. Establishes a set of strict regulations around hemp farming
  4. Demands that growers secure approval by state officials, federal officials, and law enforcement agencies before starting the cultivation process
  5. Clears a path for hemp and CBD research
  6. Reserves water rights and access to federal agricultural grants for hemp growers

Due to the act’s parameters, hemp cultivators were finally able to approach banks regarding loans — something they previously couldn’t do since the plant was a controlled, criminal substance. Moreover, thanks to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, farmers in the niche could finally get crop insurance for cannabis fields.

What Is Hemp’s Future In the United States?

Hemp — and cannabis-product sales in general — are a booming new American industry. Since 2012, the country’s entire west coast — including Alaska and Hawaii — has legalized recreational marijuana, as have Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, and a trio of New England states. Plus, all but five states — Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Kansas — have legalized medical marijuana in some form. And note that even in states where medical marijuana consumption is still outlawed, hemp farming is allowed in some capacity.

In addition to dispensaries, an offshoot industry sprouted up around marijuana legalization: CBD and hemp products, neither of which make you “high” but derive from the same Cannabis sativa plant.

States that legalized cannabis have enjoyed windfall tax revenues. As other jurisdictions start to see the industry as a surefire moneymaker, legalization is likely to sweep the nation — because, at the end of the (expensive) day, every state wants to fill its coffers.

Moreover, as the prevalence of medical marijuana expands, scientists are conducting more research, and exciting discoveries are being made that signal a bright future for palliative cannabis products — both on a prescription level and over-the-counter CBD solutions.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018

So that’s the long and short of it: the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 essentially legalized hemp growing in the United States. But it’s not a free-for-all; you can’t buy acreage and just start growing. Hemp cultivation and manufacturing are strictly regulated — and violation punishments are harsh.

Hemp Farmers Now Eligible For USDA Coronavirus Relief Program

Marijuana Moment
By Kyle Jaeger

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Friday that it is expanding its coronavirus relief program for farmers—and this time around, hemp cultivators are eligible for benefits.

In May, USDA said it would be making $19 billion available for agriculture producers to assist them amid the pandemic. But it excluded hemp and several other crops, stating that they don’t qualify because they didn’t experience a five percent or greater price decline from January to April. Industry stakeholders contested that point, arguing that there’s insufficient data to establish that given how young the newly legal market is. They said they were suffering just like other sectors.

It seems the department got that message and chose to accommodate the industry. A new round of funding through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) includes a payment category for “flat-rate crops” that lists hemp as eligible.

“Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre,” USDA said in a notice. “These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.”

Jonathan Miller, general counsel at the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told Marijuana Moment that the group is “thrilled” to see USDA take this step, though some stakeholders are saying that the calculation the department is using to determine benefits under the program “might not be as generous as for some other crops.”

“This is a very significant development for the industry,” he said. “We just want to be sure that our farmers are treated fairly just like other farmers.”

The office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has championed the industry and helped advance the crop’s legalization, highlighted the policy change.

In April, Congress approved a COVID-19 package that made hemp businesses eligible for federal disaster relief through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

For the past two years since hemp was federally legalized through the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA has been hard at work developing regulations and reaching out to the industry to ensure that the market has the resources to thrive.

This month, for example, it reopened a 30-day public comment period on its proposed rules for the crop in order to gain additional feedback on a number of provisions that stakeholders had expressed concern about. SBA recently asked USDA to extend that comment window. The department’s rule for hemp, when finalized, is set to take effect on October 31, 2021.

In July, two senators representing Oregon sent a letter to Perdue, expressing concern that hemp testing requirements that were temporarily lifted will be reinstated in the agency’s final rule. They made a series of requests for policy changes.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) called on USDA to delay the implementation of proposed hemp rules, citing concerns about certain restrictive policies the federal agency has put forward in the interim proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last month wrote to Perdue, similarly asking that USDA delay issuing final regulations for the crop until 2022 and allow states to continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill hemp pilot program in the meantime.

As it stands, the earlier pilot program is set to expire on October 31. The senators aren’t alone in requesting an extension, as state agriculture departments and a major hemp industry group made a similar request to both Congress and USDA last month.

Perdue has said on several occasions that DEA influenced certain rules, adding that the narcotics agency wasn’t pleased with the overall legalization of hemp.

As all of this rulemaking continues, USDA has been systematically approving hemp plans from states and tribes. Utah is the latest state to have its proposal approved.