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How Hemp Could Block Federal Cannabis Legalization

How Hemp Could Prolong Prohibition
PHOTO Gage Skidmore


How Hemp Could Block Federal Cannabis Legalization

There are a couple four-letter words standing between cannabis and federal legalization — literally and metaphorically.

There has been a lot of gossip going around over the past few months surrounding the timeline for Congress to finally legalize marijuana nationwide.

Some optimists believe that 2019 will be the year it happens, since the Democrats finally have control of the U.S. House and President Trump, perhaps during a momentary blackout or tiny stroke, mentioned nearly a year ago that he might sign a bill engineered to resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

Meanwhile, the national hemp market is just getting started.

Last December, the suits on Capitol Hill passed a bill legalizing industrial hemp production in the United States for the first time since 1937. The leader of that reform, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, went on a rampage in 2018 to make this thing happen for the farmers in his home state of Kentucky — and for plow pushers all across the amber waves of grain. But it is McConnell’s dedication to the hemp market that some believe could jeopardize marijuana legalization on a grand scale.

Hemp Versus Cannabis?

The reasoning goes that McConnell may not want the competition.

Although hemp is a versatile cash crop that can be used to manufacture a variety of products (paper, fuel, construction materials, plastic and food, just to name a few), it is also a source of the non-intoxicating compound known as cannabidiol or CBD. That’s because the federal government chose to legalize hemp as defined as the cannabis plant when it contains less than 0.3% THC, rather than a definition based upon the sort of cultivars one grows for products other than cannabinoids.

Right now, CBD is one of the hottest trends in America. It’s almost as popular as sliced bread and indoor plumbing – almost. Some of the latest predictions show the CBD market could be worth in upwards of $22 billion within the next few years. Not only do these numbers get a boost from public figures like Golf legend Greg Norman and actress Gwyneth Paltrow getting into the business of selling this stuff, they could also benefit from McConnell stroking the Senate gavel in devious ways, some of which could be a detriment for marijuana.

While CBD can be squeezed from the hemp plant, it can also be produced with cannabis. Some might even say the cannabis-derived version is much higher quality than the product made with hemp. The only problem is, CBD illegal in the eyes of the federal government if it comes from pot, but not if it comes from hemp. A recent report from the Motley Fool suggests that this could be what prevents McConnell from supporting nationwide marijuana legalization in the near future. There is a concern that he might continue to sandbag the idea of ending pot prohibition in the U.S. in order to stop the cannabis industry from moving in on hemp manufactures.

“McConnell’s enthusiasm for hemp could present a big hurdle for marijuana legalization in the U.S.,” wrote journalist Keith Speights.

It is not a stretch to make this assumption.

Gatekeepers Abound

Although marijuana legalization is taking hold across more of the nation, McConnell still holds all of the cards when it comes to how this issue shakes out at the federal level.

My man Mitch, one of the most powerful legislators in Congress, is responsible for determining which pieces of legislation make it to the Senate floor. If he doesn’t like a bill, you can bet that it will never be seen or heard from again — left to linger in political purgatory with no way out.

In fact, it is only because of McConnell that industrial hemp production was finally unleashed from its decades-long association with the cannabis plant. Had he not championed that effort, rest assured hemp production would still be a big, bad no-no in the United States for many more years. The kicker is McConnell doesn’t like marijuana, he doesn’t believe it should be legal and, as he has mentioned in the past, he doesn’t want to discuss the issue in the Senate. “I do not have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana,” McConnell said last year during a press conference on his hemp bill.

So, we’re out of luck, right? Well, not exactly.

There is a possibility that McConnell, the king of the swamp, could soon lose his position as the Senate Majority leader. If the Republicans do not manage to maintain control over the Senate following the 2020 election, he would be stripped of his dominating hand in 2021. There are 22 GOP seats up for grabs as opposed to 12 Democratic, which means there is the potential for a shift in power.

This is desperately needed for federal marijuana legalization to have a fighting chance. Right now, House Democrats are pushing a variety of marijuana-related bills – the most popular is the SAFE Banking Act and STATES Act — yet nothing substantial has come to pass. At the moment, regardless of what is approved in the House, McConnell can block it from a vote in the Senate. It’s a dead issue as long as the two chambers cannot come to terms on whether legal weed is right for the country.

And there is another (figurative) four-letter word that could prevent marijuana legalization in the United States, and that word is T-R-U-M-P.

Although many believe the president is in favor of marijuana reform, some of his administration’s latest moves regarding immigration and veterans suggest this is a fallacy. For starters, the latest guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that immigrants working in the legal cannabis trade are going to have difficulties gaining citizenship.

The agency said that any immigrant with a connection to pot (a criminal offense or even employment) will be viewed as unfit for naturalization.

It gets worse.

The Trump Administration recently voted against three measures aimed at lifting medical marijuana restrictions for veterans. So, if you still believe Trump is a pro-pot president, think again.

All things considered, it seems the perfect storm for marijuana legalization in the United States is one where McConnell is no longer Senate Majority Leader, and Trump gets evicted from the White House. So, the outcome of the 2020 election is crucial in moving the marijuana issue into a more realistic position.  

TELL US, when do you think federal legalization is going to happen?

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