This week, the plant that’s nearly identical to marijuana is set to become legal to grow in the US.
Thanks to the US Farm Bill, which the House passed Wednesday in a 369-47 vote, American farmers will be able to plant and harvest hemp, a strain of the same plant species from which marijuana originates.
The bill passed the Senate Tuesday in an 87-13 vote, and President Donald Trump has indicated his support and is expected to sign it timely.
Hemp legalization has been a long-time goal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who believes it can help replace tobacco as a Key crop for his state’s farmers.
The move alters the language of a major drug law that had previously remained unchanged for at least 50 years, and loosely defined hemp alongside marijuana as a controlled substance.
The new bill exempts hemp from that law and defines it as an agriculture product, meaning that farmers and researchers of hemp now get some of the same benefits as farmers and researchers of other crops, like the ability to apply for insurance and federal grants.
“The era of hemp prohibition is over,” Jonathan Miller, legal counsel for a lobbying coalition of over 60 hemp companies called the US Hemp Roundtable said.
That is a Key change for scientists, many of whom say previous drug laws deterred them from studying hemp because it was regulated like marijuana.
The bill may also boost interest in a nascent but booming $1-B based on a component of the cannabis plant called CBD, which is being touted for a variety of health and wellness claims.
CBD from marijuana, just like marijuana as a whole, remains illegal. But now that hemp is legal, CBD from hemp will likely be legal too across the nation.
The DEA, which controls the scheduling of substances, has not said how it will respond to the new bill.
As it stands, so long as a CBD product is “intended for human consumption,” it remains a Schedule 1 drug, a DEA spokeswoman said Tuesday.
One thing that is clear from the new bill is that commerce involving hemp is now in the clear. Federally-insured banks now have the ‘green light‘ for the 1st time to work with industrial hemp producers.
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