Industrial Hemp Looks Secure in Farm Bill Despite Looming Delay
By J.J. McCoy, Senior Managing Editor for New Frontier Data
There are three weeks before the current farm bill is due to expire on September 30, and while negotiations for the Farm Bill 2018 continue in fine-tuning the new 1,000-plus-page legislative piece, the prognosis is positive for the industrial hemp industry. The timeliness of its passage, however, is another matter.The bill now being considered by Congress could legalize hemp nationwide – the Senate version which passed 86-11 on June 28 contains an amendment for it, but the House version passed on June 21 made no mention of hemp. The two versions need to be reconciled before the bill proceeds for President Donald Trump's signature. Negotiators held a September 5 meeting, yet with only 11 legislative days this month for both the House and Senate slated for sessions there is little floor time to discuss a total spending package of more than $1 trillion.
“What I think we all agree on, on a bipartisan basis, is that failure is not an option. We need to get a farm bill signed into law before the end of September,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the public meeting.
Back in June, McConnell pledged his backing for hemp: "It's time to remove the federal hurdles and give [farmers] the opportunity to seize its full potential and once again become the national leader for hemp production” he said. “That is why I strongly advocated for this measure to be included in the Farm Bill."
Technically, McConnell's amendment removes hemp from the definition of "marihuana" in the Controlled Substances Act, defining it as "the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis."
Rumblings from the Hill have included threat of a government shutdown, deeming it more likely that Congress would pass a continuing resolution (CR) to extend the debate until after the November 6 midterm elections.
“It certainly seems that the existing political headwinds are most concerned with immigration and welfare reform (food stamps, etc.),” explained Garrett Graf of Denver-based Hoban Law Group, “and so certainly those are important issues, and it seems that hemp is off to the side and out of focus from being held up as Congress figures out the other important issues. I suspect that it may happen before midterms, but we are confident about the hemp provisions. Our understanding and optimism are that the Senate provisions will remain intact. We are not hearing any suggestions to the contrary.”
J.J. McCoy is Senior Managing Editor for New Frontier Data. A former staff writer for The Washington Post, he is a career journalist having covered emerging technologies among industries including aviation, satellites, transportation, law enforcement, the Smart Grid and professional sports. He has reported from the White House, the U.S. Senate, three continents and counting.