Farmers all across the United States could soon have the freedom to cultivate the same mega cash crop as our forefathers did hundreds of years ago.
Congress has reportedly reached a tentative agreement on a brand, spanking new farm bill that comes with a provision to legalize industrial hemp nationwide. If passed, which is expected, it would be the first time since World War II that most of the nation’s agriculture sector has been allowed to grow this plant for profit. It is a crucial deal that farming advocates have been hoping would gain traction for some time.
It was just last month that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “If there’s a farm bill, it’ll [industrial hemp legalization] be in there, I guarantee that.” Now, it seems the man some have referred to as Cocaine Mitch is making good on his word. The hemp provision tucked inside the farm bill would eliminate the crop from the Controlled Substances Act, where it has been lumped in with marijuana since 1937, giving farmers the opportunity incorporate it with their plow and pick repertoire.
Related: Legal Hemp: Coming Soon Nationwide?
The word on the street is that the bill must pass by the end of the year.
But this action would in no way have an impact on the nation’s marijuana laws. Hemp is considered the non-intoxicating cousin of the cannabis plant. Although the two plants are similar in appearance, someone would smoke an entire field of hemp and still not get high. But it is because of their similarities that the federal government has insisted that hemp remain illegal for so many decades. The concern was that the crop could be used as a front for criminal organizations dealing in black market pot commerce.
Yet, if hemp goes fully legal in 2018, McConnell says it would be “lightly” regulated by the U.S Department of Agriculture. So, farmers would need Uncle Sam’s permission before planting this crop.
Hemp is a massive part of American history. It was grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson back in the good old days. It is perhaps one of the most versatile fibers known to man. It can be used to clothing, food, construction materials and fuel. Interestingly, Henry Ford once built a car using hemp fibers for the panels and other components. And while the cultivation of this plant has been prohibited for decades, the United States imports around $820 million of it every year. So it stands to reason that bringing this cash crop back to the U.S. could serve as a salvation’s wing for many farmers. Especially considering the struggles that Trump’s tariffs have put on traditional crops.
Since 2014, several states have been allowed to operate industrial hemp pilot programs, where select universities research the crop to determine the best methods for production. Still, the average farmer hasn’t been able to participate. The latest version of the farm bill would change all of that.
McConnell said last month that he doesn’t know whether industrial hemp will be as lucrative as tobacco, “but I do think it has a lot of potential.” But there has been a lot to contend with in getting this bill passed. While Congress has been busy trying to help the American farmer, Trump has been pressuring lawmakers to allocate funds to build his wall on the U.S Mexico border.
Nevertheless, industrial hemp should be legal nationwide by year’s end.