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In a move that is equal parts surprising and overdue, the federal government is finally reconsidering it’s a ludicrous and inappropriate stance on industrial hemp. This decision comes on the heels of farmers across the country feeling the painful pinch of lost sales and slumping prices on soy, one of the most prominent crops, because of the President’s misguided trade war with China.
Ever since the prohibition of cannabis started, the federal government has lumped industrial hemp in with psychoactive cannabis for enforcement purposes. This decision has been as destructive as it is illogical. First of all, American farmers shouldn’t have to struggle to find cash crops that work for them. Industrial hemp has always been an easy crop to raise and sell. It is also a crop with hundreds of different commercial applications.
Since the prohibition of hemp farming in the United States along with the prohibition of psychoactive cannabis, companies in the United States that want to make hemp products have had to import industrial hemp from other countries at a significant mark-up or pay for hard-to-find sources growing hemp through state pilot program.
This has made hemp products less affordable for consumers in the United States. However, it’s important to note that the most significant and ridiculous thing about hemp prohibition is that hemp is unquestionably different than psychoactive cannabis. Even minimal training would have made it easy for law enforcement to confirm if a field was full of psychoactive cannabis or hemp.
While they are essentially cousins or even half-siblings, hemp and cannabis are unlike in many ways. One produces large amounts of the psychoactive compound, THC, and the other does not. Interestingly enough, the government has spent the last few years pushing back on cannabis legalization by claiming that modern cannabis is much more potent than cannabis was a few decades ago. One of the reasons of that selective breeders and growers have been able to successfully improve so quickly on the potency of cannabis strains is because regardless of where they are growing, there are no industrial hemp crops nearby to pollinate cannabis plants. Cannabis pollen travels a long distance, so industrial hemp farms can and do cross-pollinate with medical and recreational cannabis crops. For this reason, some states have already implemented limits on how closely to one another hemp and cannabis can grow.
The law that passed was not exactly a legalization bill. Instead, it was added to the annual Farm Bill, intended to ensure Federal funding for important agricultural programs. Previous attempts to pass similar laws have floundered. This year, the House passed this bill with overwhelming support, 369 in support versus 47 against, just one day after the Senate passed the bill on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, with 87 Senators in support and 13 against it. So far, the White House has intimated that the bill should wind up signed into law.
By officially changing hemp into an agricultural product, the Farm Bill removes it from enforcement efforts under the Drug War. It may not be the full legalization or descheduling many hope for, but it is certainly a significant step forward at the federal level. You can expect to see plenty of farmers jumping at the change to grow hemp, as well as the potential influx of hemp-based domestic consumer products in upcoming years, if this bill really does become law.
For previous Ladybud articles about hemp, click here.