On December 20th, 2018, the Trump administration signed into law the newest agreed upon iteration of the Farm Bill—a bill that was first passed in 1933 during the Great Depression. The original version was focused on helping farmers keep their farms as national crop prices took a nosedive. Since then, the bill has been amended and updated approximately every five years. Since its inception, the bill has dramatically changed, growing incredibly complex, multifaceted, and comprehensive as the world and markets evolved.
In past years, the vast majority of updates to this bill came and went with little to no hubbub from the public at large, except for those people directly plugged into the farming industry. However, that changed due to modifications on the regulation of hemp farming pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and the Republican-led Senate. These revisions were a cause for celebration due to their direct and positive impact on the legality, production, and sale of CBD. Below, we will breakdown what the bill says and how it impacts hemp products and CBD.
Hemp and the Controlled Substances Act
To understand the revisions made to hemp classification, it is critical to first dive into the way cannabis laws were originally viewed. For nearly 8 decades following the passage of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, the cannabis plant, which yields both marijuana and hemp, was considered in a singularly negative light. The act levied a tax on the sale of cannabis, which effectively banned the use and sale of the cannabis plant. Eventually, the tax act was ruled to be unconstitutional, leaving a vacuum in cannabis regulation which would soon be filled by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The CSA proceeded to classify the cannabis plant and all of its derivatives as Schedule 1 drugs. Unfortunately, the DEA did not attempt to differentiate hemp plants from marijuana plants and, instead, decided to simply outlaw everything related to the cannabis plant. With the prescience of hindsight, this action can be seen in 1 of 2 lights:
- Either – America had a relatively shallow understanding of plant biology and medicine at the time;
- Or – There was political motivation underlying the push to totally ban hemp, which was in direct competition with the cotton industry.
Realistically, it’s likely a little bit of both factors, but history seems to indicate that the latter played a more significant role in this improper conflation.
The Schedule 1 Classification
A schedule 1 classification can be defined as follows: “Substances with no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”
In order to satisfy the DEA’s scheduling, the substance must have:
- A high potential for abuse
- Severe safety concerns
- No medical use
While there are strong cases to be made for and against the use of marijuana, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, the stringent scheduling has been a cause for confusion and exasperation for many Americans, especially when viewed in the same light as its much deadlier bedfellows such as:
- Bath salts;
- Quaaludes; and
CBD Definition & Uses
As medicine and technology have advanced, the public indignation and outcry over this conflation of hemp and cannabis reached a feverous pitch, particularly in recent years. The answer to the question, what is CBD, has become clearer. The clamor has grown much in part due to our deeper understanding and revelations regarding the medicinal power of CBD—a non-psychoactive extract of hemp.
CBD is widely considered by experts to be a safe, non-addictive substance, that is simply one of a hundred phytocannabinoids unique to cannabis, which grant it therapeutic qualities. CBD is closely related to another active phytocannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol, which you know as THC. THC is the property that creates the marijuana high and other psychotropic effects.
While both THC and CBD have substantial therapeutic qualities, CBD does not have the same inhibiting effect. Its therapeutic and non-intoxicant properties made it a fantastic potential alternative to other medicines in the application to a variety of conditions, including that it may help:
- Chronic pain
- Gut disorders
- Skin diseases
The most compelling use for CBD in the past involved its seemingly miraculous help for children who have severe epilepsy. CBD’s anti-seizure properties turned many a normal parent into a rabid proponent for its legalization. Understandably, when it came to the well-being of their child and their duty to uphold the laws of the nation, many decided that the government had gotten it wrong.
The 2018 Farm Bill
Regardless of your political affiliation or personal adoration or animus towards the Senate Majority Leader, there is little doubt that Mitch McConnel had an enormous impact on the passage of hemp provisions within the updated Farm Bill of 2018. He championed these provisions and went so far as to appoint himself to the conference committee, which brought together both the House and the Senate in order to settle upon a final and uniform version.
Although McConnel is no champion for Marijuana reform and should not be praised as such, it appears that he understood three key things:
- Hemp is non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and has proven medicinal properties.
- The conflation of hemp and cannabis was very likely politically motivated.
- Kentucky, his home state, is one of the premier hemp growing locations in the world and it was a thriving industry within the state prior to the Prohibition.
With that in mind, we will discuss the amendments made to hemp classification and what that means for CBD.
The Redefinition of the Hemp Plant
In legislation, hemp has always been defined as the cannabis plant. In that sense, it was synonymous with marijuana despite its apparent variances. The new bill redefines the plant by adding one significant distinction: hemp cannot be composed of more than 0.3% of THC. Although this may seem minor, it clearly differentiates hemp from marijuana by stating that it cannot cause intoxication.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved pilot programs meant to study hemp, which allowed for limited hemp production. The 2018 Farm Bill dramatically expands this, allowing for:
- Large-scale hemp cultivation
- The transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or personal purposes
- The lift of restrictions on the possession, sale, or transport of hemp-derived products
There is a caveat, however. Hemp-derived products must be produced in a way that upholds federal laws, and this is true across all hemp laws by state. On its face, this may look like all of CBD has been made legal, but that would be a superficial understanding of the changes in the bill and ignore that caveat.
The Three Primary Restrictions
There is no doubt that this amended legislation has radically altered hemp policy in the U.S., and yes, hemp is now legal in the U.S., but there remain stringent regulations. The three noteworthy restrictions are as follows:
- Industrial Hemp cannot contain more than .3% THC – Farm Bill Section 10113 (amending 7 U.S.C. 1621 et seq.) A plant with a higher THC concentration is considered to be marijuana and treated thusly.
- Both the state and federal governments will have regulatory power over the cultivation and production of hemp – Rules include the following:
- Each state’s department of agriculture is legally required to work with both the state’s Governor and Attorney General to create and submit a plan to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- The Secretary of the USDA must approve the plan before the state can begin to license and regulate hemp.
- States that do not create their own regulatory program will have to apply for licenses, as well as comply with the USDA’s regulatory programs.
- There are punishments for violations – The bill summarizes actions that would be considered violations, possible sanctions, and pathways towards compliance.
While hemp is now legal, you cannot simply walk into your field and begin planting a crop. If you wish to do so, you must adhere to state regulations and comply with the strict THC concentrations that differentiate it from marijuana.
CBD and the 2018 Farm Bill
Concerning CBD, the Farm Bill has taken hemp-derived products that comply with the federal restrictions and removed their Schedule 1 status under the Controlled Substances Act. Similar to the strict hemp regulations mentioned above, CBD is now legal, but only under specific circumstances. It is important to note that it is not a general legalization, instead, it is an exception-based legalization.
The Farm Bill states that a cannabinoid produced from hemp will only be legal if it adheres to and satisfies the following prerequisites:
- A state-licensed grower produces it.
- It is produced in compliance with federal regulations.
- It is produced in accordance with state regulations.
So, any CBD that is grown out of compliance with any of these restrictions reverts to its original Schedule 1 status.
What This Means for Hemp Farmers
These changes were a big win for farmers looking to get into hemp cultivation thanks to the fact that hemp is now treated in a similar manner to other agricultural commodities. Although there are restrictions, provisions, and regulations, for all intents and purposes, hemp is now a mainstream crop and will likely become a bumper crop.
A provision in section 11101 further protects farmers under the Federal Crop Insurance Act, which applies in the case of crop losses, especially those resulting from climate changes or farmers adapting to a new crop. Such provisions will allow farmers to take a risk on planting these crops with the assurance that catastrophic failures due to a new learning curve will be curbed. This incentivized more farmers to take risks and add hemp to their crop.
So, All CBD Products are Legal Now?
As we discussed, the answer to that question is no. The only CBD products that are now legal are those that comply with federal and state restrictions and do not contain more than .3% THC.
To that end, you can take comfort in the fact that all BioCBD+ products satisfy the rules and regulations of the 2018 Farm Bill. All of our products, but especially our BioCBD+ Peace vaporizer, are 100% pure, derived from all-natural hemp that has:
- Virtually no THC (less than 0.03%)
- No nicotine
- No GMOs
- No chemical fillers
- No artificial flavoring
- No propylene glycol
- No vegetable glycerine
- No polyethylene glycol
Our full spectrum hemp CBD extract is as pure and natural as possible and will satisfy both state and federal restrictions.
What Does This Bill Mean for Cannabis Programs?
You may wonder whether the farm bill does anything to change state or federal restrictions on marijuana. Despite the fact that a significant majority of the states have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, without exception. There are very specific regulations that apply to marijuana, such as California medical card rules and more, varying state by state. While the Farm Bill does not change this fact, many advocates believe that these reforms to hemp policy may be the opening salvos of a larger battle for cannabis reform.
We do not know what the future holds, but for now, we can at least celebrate a small step towards a broader acceptance of the cannabis plant’s medicinal and therapeutic qualities. This limited legalization of hemp products including CBD is a significant improvement, especially for families living in states where the possession of this life-saving medicine could mean jail time. The changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill will change the landscape of the CBD market, likely improving supply and access as well as dropping costs as others move into the market. Going forward, this is a positive and welcomed change, one that we should all celebrate.
BioCBD+ respects and appreciates the hard work the FDA does, and the disclosure below is required by The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.
- House of Representatives. Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181210/CRPT-115hrpt1072.pdf
- Stein, J. Washington Post. President Trump signs $867 billion farm bill into law. (2018). https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/12/20/president-trump-signs-billion-farm-bill-into-law/?utm_term=.9f514b4bde79
- Farm Policy Facts. Farm Bill – A Short History and Summary. https://www.farmpolicyfacts.org/farm-policy-history/
- Musto, D. JAMA. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. (1972). https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/490581
- U.S. Department of Justice. DEA. Title 21 States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act. (2016). https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/
- Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug Scheduling. https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
- Lewis, A. Rolling Stone. Mitch McConnell: Drug Warrior, CBD Champion? https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/mitch-mcconnell-drug-warrior-cbd-champion-667089/