As many may be aware, the 2018 Farm Bill is currently in lame-duck session. While most were hoping to see the bill pass and become the Agricultural Act of 2018 by now, it is currently held up by heated disagreements regarding work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP i.e. “food stamps”). Despite political divisiveness, there is bipartisan support surrounding language proposed in the bill referring to hemp and hemp-based cannabinoid products.
Since the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), hemp has traditionally been confused with its hyper-psychoactive cousin, classically denominated as “marihuana.” Two crucial legal battles between the Hemp Industries Association v. the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2003-04, resulted in determination that rules barring hemp and hemp products from the legal marketplace were inconsistent with the definitions of the CSA. The rulings were based on the fact that industrial hemp lacks enough of a significant concentration of THC, the compound which induces the intoxicating effects of marijuana. This new perspective eventually led to a new conception of hemp as a plant.
In Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, hemp was officially defined as a variant of cannabis which contains less than 0.3% THC concentration. Pilot programs were authorized to research and cultivate the plant so long as a crop was verifiably hemp. Since then we have seen an explosion in the applications of hemp and its derivatives; from clothing and cordage to hemp-derived cannabinoid products such as the CBD products we offer at Lazarus Naturals. However, the loose nature of the definitions of hemp in the Agricultural Act 2014 left the plant and its products open to a bit too much legal interpretation.
The language concerning hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill primarily seeks to clear up confusion surrounding hemp and hemp-derived products (including CBD) left unclear by the Agricultural Act of 2014 and to solidify its legitimacy as a legal agricultural commodity. If passed, it will effectively remove hemp from any CSA consideration outright. This means that hemp will no longer be considered an illicit substance on par with heroin. Instead, it will assume the more appropriate legal status as an agricultural commodity like corn or soy. In other words, hemp will finally become federally legal. The opportunities for hemp research will expand, crop insurance will finally be open to consideration, interstate commerce of hemp and hemp products will continue unabated, and the potential for federal criminal enforcement will be drastically reduced.
All in all, the language presented by the 2018 Farm Bill will be a net win for the hemp industry. However, the language simplification is a little more complex than what might at first be assumed. Most importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill will not preempt state law. This means that the current regulations of hemp in individual states will remain as is until there is further legislation (much like the alcohol consumption ban that exists in the same counties of Kentucky that distill its world-famous American bourbon.)
The language in the Farm Bill will not immediately mitigate all difficulties for hemp and hemp products in the marketplace. Taking into consideration that the FDA will assume supervision of materials that had previously been illicit, the details of future hemp regulation are far from being realized. As of the date of writing, the legal status of CBD products is murky; neither exactly illicit substance nor dietary supplement. Sovereign states have declared the legality of such products in the marketplace. With FDA assuming regulation of CBD via the Farm Bill, the first task will be determining its category. Will CBD be regulated as a dietary ingredient or will it be categorized as a medicine? Will the isolated form of the cannabidiol compound be treated differently from hemp extracts containing CBD alongside a broad spectrum of cannabinoids? These are the big questions.
That said, we at Lazarus Naturals understand there is much work to be done in rendering hemp-derived, cannabinoid-based products a viable option to those seeking to add to their current supplemental needs, regardless of technicalities. Indeed, there is much to be learned regarding the most effective applications of our products now that hemp and its derivatives will become open to new opportunities for exploration. However, we have witnessed first-hand the great potential of hemp-derived products from our customers. We are confident as a result of our continuing rigorous research that we can help determine the potential benefits of our products. It is important we ensure that future legislation regarding our raw material is fair and bolstered by scientific legitimacy, regardless of how the FDA will ultimately classify hemp-derived cannabinoids. Ultimately, our mission is, and will always remain, to ensure that those in need have access to the products they have grown to love. We must not permit any shortcuts on the journey to ensure the availability and affordability of hemp-derived products for the people who need them most: the people of reduced circumstances, those on disability, and veterans.