US Senate Committee OKs Hemp, Moves on for Full Senate Vote

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By a vote of 20 to 1, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on Wednesday approved a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that eliminates hemp from the federal definition of marijuana. If the provision makes it through the full Senate, the House, and gets signed by President Trump, hemp will be as legal as corn to grow and market.

The addition of the provision to the quadrennial Farm Bill is the work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has long supported the change to hemp’s status as a controlled substance. In April, McConnell introduced the Hemp Farming Act as a separate piece of legislation, but getting that measure’s provisions included in the Farm Bill raises the chances that hemp will gain legal status this year.

The Farm Bill is one of those “must-pass” pieces of legislation and though the debate about what should be included and what should not is often contentious, a Farm Bill is always enacted. Having the hemp provisions in the legislationll is far better than pushing separate legislation.

According to MarijuanaMoment.net, McConnell told the Senate committee:

I think it’s time we took this step. I think everybody has now figured it out that this is not the other plant. [He’s referring to marijuana.] … All the people in rural Kentucky who grew up with tobacco are hoping that this will be really something. And as we all know, hemp is very diversified. It can end up in your car dashboard, it can end up in food, it can end up in certain kinds of pharmaceuticals. It’s time to figure it out and see where the market will take us. I think it’s an important new development in American agriculture.

Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley had on Tuesday filed an amendment to the Farm Bill to require the U.S. Department of Justice to “modify the definition of the term ‘hemp’ and make a determination as to whether cannabidiol (CBD) should be a controlled substance.”

That would have raised the issue of hemp’s delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration and almost surely have torpedoed efforts to make hemp a legal crop. McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act limited the concentration of THC in hemp plants to 0.03%. Medical marijuana typically contains 5% to 20% THC while the most highly concentrated strains of recreational marijuana contain 25% to 30% THC.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long-time opponent of all things related to marijuana, has reportedly told McConnell that Sessions himself will not welcome legalized hemp.

If the provisions for legalizing hemp make it through the legislative process and into the law, hemp would be established as an agricultural commodity and would be added to the list of federally insurable crops. It helps to have friends like McConnell to do the heavy lifting.