The farm bill, which Congress passed with bipartisan votes last week, includes a section removing hemp ― a term typically used to describe non-intoxicating forms of cannabis ― from the Controlled Substances Act. It allows for the commercial cultivation, research and development of hemp.
The legislation will officially go into effect in January.
Previously hemp had been considered a Schedule I substance alongside more potent strains of marijuana, as well as other drugs like heroin, LSD and some deadly synthetic opioids. While other strains of cannabis with higher concentrations of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, can get people high, hemp does not. Under the new bill, hemp is defined as any part of a marijuana plant with a THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less.
“This bill constitutes a momentous victory for the movement in support of hemp farming, and will have far-reaching positive impacts on rural economies and farming communities,” Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a hemp industry advocacy nonprofit, said in a press release.
Hemp is grown most commonly for use in food, fuel and textiles. The crop also plays an important role in certain wellness products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating compound in cannabis that has become popular in recent years as a treatment for conditions including, seizures, anxiety and pain. CBD is typically derived from hemp.
Drug policy reformers and hemp industry groups had also hoped that the final bill would be passed without a statute permanently prohibiting individuals with prior felony drug charges from working on hemp operations. Instead, they were able to reach a compromise on a provision narrowing the ban to 10 years following a conviction and grandfathering in any individuals with a conviction who are currently cultivating hemp in compliance with their state law.