Congress Just Officially Legalized Hemp: The CBD Boom is Coming
Congress just legalized non-psychoactive hemp across the board — this is the first major step towards change on a federal level in over a decade. However, recreational and medicinal uses aren’t affected.
According to the new bill, hemp is classified as any Cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3% THC — the main psychoactive constituent of the plant.
After 81 years of restriction on the plant, what’s behind the sudden change of heart?
We’ll go over the economic factors driving the decision, who the key players are, and what this means for the industry as a whole.
An Argument for Growing Hemp
According to the “Hemporer”, Jack Herer — author of “The Emporer Wears No Clothes” — ending the hemp prohibition would yield a copious amount of benefits for the United States as a whole.
He argued that commercialized hemp production would bring benefits such as:
- Ending the global hunger crisis
- Breaking free from our reliance on fossil fuels
- Ending our obsession with plastics and non-renewable resources
- Restoring depleted soils across the country
- Fixing the housing crisis
- Putting a halt on climate change
These are some big claims, but they aren’t without their merit.
Herer’s research was incredibly comprehensive. He provided several persuasive arguments for each point.
The plant can be used proficiently as food, clothing, shelter, medicine, paper, and fuel. It takes less water and pesticide to grow than corn and grows in even the most depleted of soils.
All parts of the plant can be used; the seeds as food, the stems as a source of fiber, the leaves as medicine and food, and the roots can be used to enrich the soil.
Some argue that lifting restrictions on hemp production could be the answer to many of the world’s problems. Whether this is true or not only time can tell.
However, it’s clear that much of the motivation to change the laws around hemp production were in preparation for an upcoming boom in the hemp industry.
Replacing Tobacco Farms with Hemp Farms
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was a main driver on the push to legalize hemp.
What are his motivations for doing so?
His home state, Kentucky, is a farming state. They rely on the productivity of their farms to generate income for the entire state. In the past, their largest cash crop was tobacco, however, in recent years the demand for this crop has significantly diminished in light of the negative health effects associated with smoking.
A lot of Kentucky farmers growing tobacco started looking for a new cash crop to fill the void. This was a major factor involved with Congress’ decision to lift the ban on hemp production on a commercial scale.
Other conservative tobacco state representatives jumped on board and the motion was passed. Hemp production is now under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture and various state agencies.
This is great news for farmers across the country.
Hemp as Textiles or Hemp as Medicine?
One question many people are asking is whether the bill allows the production of medicinal hemp or textile hemp.
People have been pushing to legalize hemp for decades for its application as a textile under the slogan “rope not dope” — in relation to the differences between growing hemp as a material for ropes and fibers rather than the psychoactive “dope” from marijuana plants.
Despite the value of hemp as a textile, it’s failed to make any progress on prohibition at the federal level for the last 81 years running.
In reality, we’ve had access to hemp textiles for decades, and it’s not exactly in short supply. Our neighbors to the North have been supplying most of our textile hemp for the last couple of decades. In 2007, 59% of Canada’s hemp exports went to the United States.
This time things are different.
The main driver to legalize this time around was for hemp’s health benefits in the form of CBD or hemp oils which is projected to be the next blockbuster industry — the CBD market is expected to reach $22 billion by 2022.
The current appended Farm Bill considers any Cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.3% THC by dried weight as hemp, and anything with more than 0.3% THC marijuana — which remains illegal in the United States.
The new bill doesn’t specify measurements of the other cannabinoids in the plant, including CBD. This contrasts the older 2014 Farm Bill, which limited all cannabinoids in the plant, making it only valuable as a textile and not as a medicine.
This means that the hemp grown on US soils may be grown with the intent for medicinal applications, as long as they aren’t psychoactive (identified by measuring THC content).
Detailing the New Farm Bill
Hemp farming has been prohibited on a federal level since 1937 with the introduction of the Marijuana Tax Act.
The first round of changes came with the 2014 Farm Bill that officially ended the hemp prohibition. It allowed a handful of states to grow limited hemp crops for research purposes.
According to the new bill, there are no longer any federal impediments to growing hemp, anybody can grow it commercially according to the feds. The only restrictions given are on THC content of the plants grown.
On the state level, things may be slightly different. State governments have the opportunity to step in and outline their own legislature on their farmers should they choose to do so.
Where Will We Go from Here?
In 2018, 77,000 acres of hemp were planted. In light of the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, this number is set to explode for 2019. There’s no way to get an accurate projection of how big this market will be next year, but some sources are suggesting it will reach $22 billion in the next three years.
The lift on the prohibition of commercial hemp in the United States is good news for farmers around the country. The crop uses less water and requires less pesticide treatment than corn.
The hemp plant has a huge market demand spanning several major industries. We can expect to see major changes in the clothing, food, construction, power, and supplement industries over the next couple of years as hemp production ramps up to fill the demand.
About James Reed
James Reed is the founder and editor-in-chief at iSum. He’s a big advocate of marijuana and spent most of his time writing about these topics, sharing what he learned over the years.