Congress took a long overdue leap earlier this week when it passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which included a provision that legalizes industrial hemp production in the United States for the first time in over eight decades. As long of President Trump signs it – something he is expected to do – farmers all across the country will soon have the freedom to add this versatile crop to their plow and pick repertoire.
The measure is also expected to breathe new life into the CBD market, as this trendy derivative of the plant will also be given the kind of legal clearance it has needed to flourish unchained in pits of American commerce.
“CBD has been operating in a gray area up until now,” Jamie Schau, who follows the hemp scene for the Brightfield Group, told Cannabis Wire. “It gives people access to financial resources, loans, insurance all those things important to run a legitimate and scalable business.”
But don’t expect drastic changes to come as soon as the ink from the president’s pen is dry.
Although some states already have industrial hemp pilot programs in place for research purposes, states legislatures still need to pass laws in the coming months allowing farmers to put hemp in the ground.
This is expected to be a hot issue in the new year, especially since farming advocates have spent years pressuring lawmakers for this reform. In states like Indiana, the agricultural sector is hoping to use an industrial hemp crop to make up the difference lost to declining corn and soybeans prices.
Still, before the agricultural community gets too excited about their involvement in this new business division, experts argue that they need to start making a game plan. “I don’t plant corn without having a buyer and now we’ve got people buying hemp without having a buyer,” said Tim Gordon, a hemp producer and the chief science officer at the hemp oil company Functional Remedies.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture – the agency slated to oversee industrial hemp — will need to hash out the regulatory affairs. This could take anywhere from a year to 18 months, according to some reports. It is conceivable that American farmers might not be able to take full advantage of the new law until 2020. No one really knows how this aspect is going to shake out.
Other unknowns will need to be addressed with the legalization of industrial hemp. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet said how it will affect the CBD market. As of now, these products are not regulated by the agency. It is likely that the companies that produce CBD products will have to adhere to federal restrictions and verify ingredients on their labels. This is good news for some, bad news for other. In reality, the legalization of industrial hemp is just the first step to a lengthy process of commercial independence.