President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law on Thursday, legalizing industrial hemp and its derivatives across the country.
An amendment to the $867 billion bill — which was originally inserted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) — officially removes hemp and its derivatives, including cannabidiol (CBD), from the Controlled Substances Act.
The legalization language faced little resistance from other lawmakers. One clause was added, however, that blocks individuals who have been convicted of a controlled substance-related felony from partaking in the newly established hemp industry for 10 years after their conviction.
The 2018 Farm Bill followed a rocky path to becoming law. After missing initial deadlines due to bipartisan disagreements over changes to the federal food stamp program, both houses of Congress managed to pass separate versions of the bill which had to be unified during a lame duck session after the midterm elections. After the bill was unified, it then needed to pass both houses of Congress, which it did in record time.
The one remaining doubt — President Trump’s signature — was laid to rest during a televised bill signing event yesterday afternoon.
“The significance of this law change should not be underemphasized. This law marks the first change in the federal classification of the cannabis plant since it was initially classified as a schedule I controlled substance by Congress in 1970, and paves the way for the first federally-sanctioned commercial hemp grows since World War II.” — Paul Armentano, Deputy Director for NORML, in a statement
Trump had praised the GOP-backed food stamp changes, which aimed to add work requirements to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Those provisions did not make it into the final version of the bill, but the president agreed to sign after being reassured by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that the SNAP reforms would be handled via regulatory oversight, not by Congress. That oversight should not affect the hemp legalization language.
With the prohibition on industrial hemp lifted, it is hoped that research related to CBD and other cannabinoids found in hemp — as well as insurance and business loans for farmers who grow the crop — can now proceed at full speed.