The Crow here for c4ocradio.com
Congress is on the verge of officially legalizing industrial hemp, with a measure that would create a legal distinction between the popular crop and other, intoxicating strains of marijuana. In a statement Thursday, leaders of the U.S. Senate and House agricultural committees reported that they’d reached a tentative agreement on the 2018 Farm Bill. Included in that larger piece of legislation are a number of provisions that would allow for the commercial cultivation, research and development of industrial hemp. A vote is expected by the end of the year. Under the new farm bill, hemp would be defined as any part of a marijuana plant with a THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains very low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. While strains of cannabis with higher THC can get people high, hemp does not. There are a few remaining procedural hurdles that could threaten the legislation, but for the moment, the broader farm bill and its hemp measures look likely to pass, said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, an advocacy group. “We’ve had five years and what we’ve seen is that there are a lot of people who are wanting to grow this crop..
It is typically grown for use in food, fuel, textiles and other applications. Since 1970, however, federal law has classified all cannabis plants as Schedule I substances, alongside drugs like heroin, LSD and a number of deadly synthetic opioids. “The hemp part of the bill has never really been in dispute,” said Steenstra. “I feel very optimistic about this.” In 2014, Congress passed a farm bill renewal that allowed for pilot programs and research on hemp. Over the past few years, hemp has begun to develop into its own thriving industry. Cultivation operations quickly sprouted up across the U.S., and in 2018, more than 3,500 licenses were issued in 23 states, leading to over 77,000 acres of hemp being planted, according to Vote Hemp. In 2015, just 9,650 acres of hemp had been planted in 15 states, Steenstra added. That explosive growth has helped convince skeptical lawmakers that the longstanding prohibition on hemp is no longer defensible. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), once a vocal opponent of hemp legalization, has since become a leading advocate for the initiative.
The Crow is a contributing writer for c4ocradio.com/listenlive
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