Hang around the cannabis community long enough these days and someone is bound to ask, “Yo! So, what happened to hemp going legal nationwide?” It’s a legitimate question, considering that the mission to re-establish the industrial hemp in the United States was spearheaded earlier this year by non-other Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Republican introduced legislation over the summer intended to resurrect the industrial hemp industry by eliminating marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin from the confines of the Controlled Substances Act. The “Hemp Farming Act of 2018,” which is part of a larger farm bill, was fast-tracked through the Senate, bypassing committee hearings and other time-consuming steps.
But then, it just sort of fell off the face of the Earth.
For several months, there has been no word on whether American farmers are any closer to adding this versatile cash crop to their plow and pick repertoire. Most are likely of the opinion that the prospect of a legal hemp trade was just a lot of hot talk used to secure votes for Republicans in the midterms. But McConnell swears that if Congress can get its act together with respect to farming subsidies, there is no doubt that industrial hemp production will happen in 2018.
“If there’s a farm bill, it’ll be in there, I guarantee that,” he told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
Since all of the media hype over the possibility of legal hemp production died down, McConnell has been conducting field trips in his home state of Kentucky to learn more about the reach of the plant. He’s visited several hemp production sites across the Bluegrass State, which has a booming industrial hemp program, which has convinced him that giving this crop back to the American farmer could have farther reaching implications than he ever envisioned. “I don’t want to overstate this — I don’t know whether it’s going to be the next tobacco or not, but I do think it has a lot of potential,” he said.
For years, the federal government has suggested that hemp should remain a part of the national marijuana ban to prevent the crop from being used as a cover for criminal organizations. They two plants are very similar in appearance, but one produces stoned effects and the other does not.
But McConnell seems to come to his senses about this heaping wad of poppycock. He says the U.S. Department of Agriculture would “lightly” regulate the national industrial hemp game and the Justice Department would be taken out of the mix. Right now, the DEA keeps tabs on statewide hemp programs. And since hemp growers would be under regulations, forcing them to register their businesses like the rest of the farming scene, McConnell believes law enforcement will easily determine who is growing hemp and who is using it as a front for an illicit drug slinging operation.
Still, McConnell’s “if there is a farm bill” comments are not very encouraging. It sounds like it might happen, but a lot could go wrong.
But there is some belief that Congress will end up passing this legislation this year in the lame-duck session. Republicans do not want to wait until Democrats are running the show in the U.S. House next year to push it through. Agricultural experts like Jay Vroom, former president and CEO of CropLife America, say the bill has an excellent chance of finding approval in 2018. He gives it a 65 percent chance of passage, as most of the more prominent snags have been dealt with already.
Other experts agree the bill will get done. “The farm bill is on everyone’s mind,” said Sid Miller, Texas commissioner of agriculture and president of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture. “It’s already late. But I think it’s highly likely that the farm bill will pass in the lame duck session.”
Meanwhile, President Trump wants Congress to spend the lame duck session finding money to build his wall. McConnell isn’t having it. He told reporters last week that while Congress would “certainly try to help achieve what he’d like to do with the wall and border security,” the primary agenda was passing farming legislation and spending bills.
Hemp hemp hooray!
TELL US, do you support industrial hemp in America?