State Of Hemp In The Nation
Since the Agricultural Act of 2014 authorized research programs for hemp, only nine states have yet to launch pilot programs while forty-one have adopted some sort of hemp legislation.¹ Of those forty-one states, only twenty-four actively regulate hemp in a manner conducive to cultivating, processing and selling hemp and its products.² However, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and subsequent state of hemp looms large, which will establish hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) outside the purview of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) via the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Effectively, hemp is set to solidify its rightful place as an agricultural product rather than an illicit substance.
Until the 2018 Farm Bill passes and we see how the FDA will handle the transition exactly, players currently in the hemp product industry are operating under guidance from Congress, which has affirmed via a temporary appropriations bill signed by President Trump that no funds will be used to “prohibit the transportation, processing, sale, or use of industrial hemp, or seeds of such plant, that is grown or cultivated in accordance with subsection 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2104, within or outside the state in which the industrial hemp is grown and cultivated.” In layman’s terms, Congress has reassured the hemp space that those involved are not likely to see federal intervention in any activity pursuant to their respective state regulations.
This negates possible concerns of federal legal intervention for the time being. But, as aforementioned, the sentiments toward hemp by individual states vary. Seeing as hemp is distinguishable from marijuana only by the concentration of THC in the plant matter—being defined as cannabis with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less—some of the eleven states which do not have a hemp research pilot program, namely Idaho, choose to treat it as illicit as its cousin. Other states, like California, have measly hemp programs with very little encouraging regulation and concerningly choose to pursue enforcement actions of cultivation of the plant and sales of hemp-derived CBD products in particular.³ The states with more progressive hemp legislation, however, including Kentucky, Colorado and Oregon, have robust and active hemp pilot programs.⁴ These states are thriving cultivators, contain the vast majority of the nation’s hemp acreage and churn out CBD products in equal fashion.
The recent rise in popularity of the applications of hemp is not simply a phenomenon particular of the United States. In fact, hemp and hemp-based products are currently garnering significant international attention. The World Health Organization (WHO) is still formulating its assessment of CBD to the UN Commission of Narcotic Drugs. In a memo issued to the DEA in May of 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services (of which the FDA is a subdivision) officially recommended that there is substantial evidence to suggest Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived CBD formulation, should be removed from Schedule I to be rescheduled under Schedule V of the CSA due to the precedent of cannabinoids having medical benefits. Since then, the DEA has followed the advice of the FDA. With America setting the precedent that hemp-derived CBD products have merit and with endorsements from formidable hemp trade associations such as the US Hemp Roundtable, one can be optimistic that eventually the WHO will also weigh the evidence in favor of rescheduling and open up international availability of CBD.
The zeitgeist surrounding hemp seems favorable, but until we see the consequences of the final recommendation by the WHO and the passage of the 2018 US Farm Bill, we cannot yet seal the fate of hemp and hemp-derived products. This much is known: the legal landscape has arguably never been better. If consumer demand of hemp products is any indication and if democracy is still alive in the world, one cannot help but believe that the future of accessibility to hemp and CBD is bright.
More to come as it all unfolds...
¹Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas.
²Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin