On December 20th President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law, legalizing industrial hemp following decades of the crop being caught up in broader cannabis prohibition.

To make things clear, hemp is defined as the cannabis plant, which also produces marijuana. However, the distinction is that hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC — the chemical that gets people high. The legalization will promote research into hemp’s uses, including as a medical product.

The signing ceremony represents the culmination of a months-long debate over various provisions of the wide-ranging agriculture legislation. But after the House and Senate Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions, the final Farm Bill easily passed in full floor votes last week.

While the major milestone has been widely characterized as outright legalization, it’s essential to note that strict regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Although hemp will no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, prospective growers will have to submit cultivation plans to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), either through the state government or the USDA itself.

What Does it Really Mean?

One of the biggest challenges that the bill removes are obstacles farmers face in growing hemp, including restricted access to banking, water rights, and crop insurance. Hemp is easier to grow than cotton, corn or soybeans as it requires little water and can be viable in lower-quality soil that is not practical for other crops.

The hemp provision is just one of several aspects of the farm bill meant to aid farmers as exports of agricultural products such as soybeans take a hit as Trump engages in a bitter trade war with China and other countries.

Great, So What About CBD?

John Hudak of the Brookings Institute wrote about this aspect of the legislation. He shared that a “big myth that exists about the Farm Bill is that cannabidiol (CBD) — a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis — is legalized.”

“It is true that section 12619 of the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally.

As noted elsewhere CBD generally remains a Schedule I substance under federal law . . . The Farm Bill ensures that any cannabinoid — a set of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant — that is derived from hemp will be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower.

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