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The Problems with the 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill is a major breakthrough for the budding U.S. hemp industry. Finally, stakeholders can legally sell their products across state lines, farmers can access federal aid, and consumers can begin to expect safe and reliable products. But, not without a few headaches.

Watch and learn as Garrett Graff, Managing Attorney at the Hoban Law Group, talks about the biggest problems with the 2018 Farm Bill in this sneak peek of Green Flower’s new CBD Certificate Program

The Problems with 2018 Farm Bill

In 2018, the United States Congress passed legislation that took a major step toward the end of cannabis prohibition. An amendment to the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) federally legalized the production of hemp, which the law defines as cannabis plants that produce less than 0.3 percent THC.

But, the amendment does not legalize all cannabis plants and extracts. Instead, the bill allows for the interstate trade of non-intoxicating hemp plants and the legal regulation of hemp as an agricultural crop. 

For budding hemp farmers, this is good news.

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp producers will have access to the same protections and opportunities that the federal government awards to other agricultural products, like federal aid, and improved access to loans and insurance.  

But, alas, no legislation is perfect, especially when integrating a new industry into a legal marketplace. Odd definitions, challenging timelines, and restrictions on who can enter the hemp industry all create barriers to success with legal hemp. Here are the top three problems with the 2018 Farm Bill:

    • It will take time before the 2018 Farm Bill and its corresponding rules and regulations are fully developed and implemented.
    • Some states will be more restrictive than others regarding the cultivation of hemp. 
    • People with drug-related felons may have to wait to enter the legal hemp industry.

2014 Farm Bill is Still In Effect (In Essence)

The 2018 Farm Bill provides the groundwork regulations for states to develop their own industrial hemp programs. But, farmers and CBD stakeholders have some time to wait before all of the final rules and regulations for marketing hemp will be put into place.

In October of 2019, the Agricultural Marketing Service released the interim final rules on domestic hemp production. These regulations will be active until November of 2021 and they act as the federal guidelines for domestic hemp production. In essence, they bring hemp and CBD extracts into legal agricultural markets, making them almost no different from corn or wheat in terms of legal legitimacy. 

However, the USDA’s rules are only one part of the final regulations regarding hemp and CBD. The next big contender, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, still needs to weigh in on the topic. 

This means that the 2018 Farm Bill, in a way, exists in limbo at the present moment. The full bill will not be in effect until regulations from both the USDA, FDA, and, in turn, individual states, are introduced and finalized.

In the meantime, the 2014 Farm Bill is the default piece of legislation that prospective stakeholders can fall back on until regulators can roll out the full scope of the 2018 amendment. Graff anticipates that stakeholders may see significant traction on the 2018 Farm Bill by fall of 2020—if everything continues to roll out in a timely manner.

Some States Are Still More Restrictive Than Others

All U.S. states must comply with the basic regulations for hemp production and marketing set forth by the federal government. But, the 2018 Farm Bill also gives states the right to pass laws that are more restrictive, should they choose to do so. That means that both industry and consumer access to CBD may be easier in some states than in others.

Plus, states have some liberty in how they choose to interpret the 2018 Farm Bill. For example, the Farm Bill classifies any plant or product that contains less than 0.3 percent total THC as hemp. But, it does not differentiate between intoxicating delta9-THC and non-intoxicating THC acid (THCa). This sets a precedent for states to evaluate THC acid as delta9-THC, which may limit the ability to easily sell non-intoxicating THCa products. 

Issues for Those with Prior Felony Convictions 

If you have a previous felony conviction related to a controlled substance, it may be more difficult for you to enter the legal hemp industry. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, persons with felony convictions related to a controlled substance cannot participate in a legal hemp production program for up to 10 years after the date of their conviction. 

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