By Op-Ed Blogger Quinton Charles
Around this time last year, I wrote a blog discussing the 2018 Farm Bill which, along with doing other things, legalized the industrial cultivation of Hemp in the United States. But that was a year ago. WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW? I’m glad you asked.
There were a couple of setbacks to hemp cultivation in the U.S. after the 2018 Farm Bill was passed last November. One of these was the USDA’s requirement to set forth a set of policies that could be implemented in states that would regulate growers. Without these regulations in place, there could essentially be no industrial cultivation. States could also opt to set their own regulations. Now, those rules have been released by the USDA (finally!).
What do they say?
The rules set standards for how to track hemp acres, test THC levels, and dispose of plants with too much of the compound. This last part is key, as one of the concerns that was raised early on was how to differentiate between hemp and marijuana, and how to ensure that growers were not growing crops with too high of THC content. Yes, there is a difference between Hemp and Marijuana – check out our last blog! The rules also create a set of consistent regulations to be adhered to nationally. We are huge advocates for this. We love the idea of some consistency in this industry!!!
Who is happy about them?
These federal rules have pleased both farmers and banks by satisfying any reservations that banks may have had about loaning to businesses that did not have a clear set of rules and regulations to adhere to (that is the hemp businesses that, up until this point, had no clear federal rules). Farmers can receive better loans with lower interest rates and less money down from large banks, and large banks can profit from loaning to growers in a potentially lucrative market.
What do farmers get out of the rules?
In addition to setting clear guidelines for growers (like regulating THC content and how to dispose of crops with too much THC), it also provides some much-needed protection. Hemp growers in the U.S. will now receive the same protections as other commodity growers, including access to federal crop insurance. This may not seem that significant, but to a farmer that has a bad year, it is the difference between losing and keeping the farm.
The rules also provide hemp farmers with important safeguards and benefits generally afforded to agricultural program participants, such as protection against state interference of interstate commerce, and eligibility for federal grants and programs.
Overall, the rules provide far more protections to growers of hemp and will likely enable more people to grow it than currently do.
What about the state programs?
As of now, 47 of the 50 states in the Union have created licensing programs to license growers of industrial hemp. These programs started to be developed and enacted after the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. So what do the new USDA rules do to these?
Under the new USDA rules, states still can maintain their programs, but they must align with the federal standards, and the states must submit their plans to the USDA for approval.
Alternatively, a state can choose to legalize the growing and the production of Hemp, but not enact a program. In that case, the USDA would maintain the hemp program in that state. Hemp would remain illegal to grow industrially in states that have not legalized production.
Is the FDA involved at all?
Currently, the FDA is reviewing whether CBD should be classified as a pharmaceutical drug and whether or not it should be regulated as such (it is regulated as a dietary supplement under current law). If it were to be classified as a pharmaceutical drug, CBD producers and growers would have to meet rigorous standards in testing and would have to submit to FDA regulations. Currently, this is not the case. This may change in the future.
Up to this point, I have elaborated extensively on how regulations and rules have changed for growers of hemp. But what about consumers?
It is still legal in all 50 states (federally) to use products derived from hemp. There was a big scare in my home state of Michigan (and The Green Wellness Life home base) over whether or not CBD-vapes were going to be banned (they’re not. Only fruit and candy-flavored vapes were banned). We wrote a blog about that recently.
What consumers really have to look forward to regarding these new USDA rules is something that we all love: cheaper goods! I have been saying this for a while now, and each regulation and rule brings us closer to realizing it. More farmers are being licensed, there is a federal program in place, and banks will no longer hold back from loaning to CBD and hemp-growing businesses due to federal uncertainty. Things are looking up for the CBD world! Some of you may even have noticed your product prices being reduced.
Hear about it elsewhere?
These rules and a general discussion of hemp are not exclusive to the CBD-using community, however. Recently, in a political race to determine the next Commissioner of Agriculture of Kentucky, hemp has become a major topic of debate. The state is already first in the nation for hemp cultivation and it wants to stay in that position. It is no wonder that hemp is factoring into statewide elections.
What to watch for (Hemp):
While I can present all the information that I think is relevant to you now, there is always going to be a new story about hemp. While you’re always welcome to wait for my next update post, you can also stay informed independently! Every so often, take the time to look up “hemp” in the news. Even a simple Google search can yield results.
Keep your eye on FDA developments, USDA rules, and statewide programs. We will try to keep you informed about major developments, but we can’t always catch everything. Make sure to watch our social media for news updates as well! As always, we are more than happy to talk about the exciting progress of hemp legally; feel free to message us or call us with any questions that you have (we love to talk to customers, and hemp is our favorite topic!).