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article imageU.S. Congress agrees on legislation to make growing hemp legal

By Ken Hanly     Dec 2, 2018 in Business
Washington D.c. - The U.S. Congress has finally come to an agreement on proposed legislation that would make it legal to grow hemp in the U.S. for the first time in almost a century.
Hemp derived from same plant as marijuana
Although derived from the same plant, hemp is a variety that has less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the ingredient that provides the high in regular marijuana. Hemp is used in fuel, food, bracelets and many other purposes. Derivatives are used in everything from textiles to medicines. The proposed legislation acknowledges officially the difference between the two.
CBD is a useful hemp derivative
While very low in THC, hemp has another important ingredient called cannabidiol (CBD). Many claim that CBD can reduce pain and depression as well as other health problems although research needs to be done to give solid evidence of this. CBD has up to now been in a gray area concerning its legality. The new legislation will clear this up and make it legal.
Up to now hemp and other cannabis derivatives have been illegal in the US
As far back as 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act effectively banned marijuana. Other legislation has claimed the marijuana products as dangerous Schedule I substances along with LSD and ecstasy. However in 2014 Congress did pass legislation that approved small pilot programs for growing hemp. Farmer's still needed approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration to grow the plots. This was part of the Farm Bill. The new legislation will be part of the proposed 2018 Farm Bill.
In December of 2016 CBD was added to the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances as reported in a Digital Journal article. This cleared up part of the legal grey area but the new legislation will make CBD much more available and legal.
Shawn Hauser, a senior associate at the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg said of the new bill: “The 2018 bill actually goes in and amends the Controlled Substances Act to make very clear that CBD derived from hemp would not be considered a controlled substance." John Hudak, a senior fellow at Brooking institution said that the legislation was important in that it shows a recognition of CBD and its lack of potential harm or risk.
While there are likely to be more CBD products now, as far as growing hemp is concerned Hudak said growers will still need to be licensed and there will be federal and state restrictions on hemp products. It is not going to be a free-for-all as some people imagine Hudak claimed.
Hemp growing and legalization could provide jobs and economic growth
As seen on the appended video, farmers in some states are anxious to grow hemp. Hemp is versatile in that it can grow in various climates not just Colorado as in the video but Kentucky as well. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who sponsored the legislation said that Kentucky was one of the best places to grow hemp. Hudak added: “Kentuckians think that this could help replace coal miner jobs in eastern Kentucky and could jump start local economies that have really suffered as economic transition has happened."
Justin Strekal, the political director of the pro-marijuana group NORML had praise for the new legislation but said new regulations are also needed saying: “For years, many of the producers of these products have navigated in a grey area of the law — manufacturing products of variable and sometimes questionable quality and safety. Now it is time for lawmakers to craft simple benchmark safety and quality standards for hemp-derived CBD in order to increase consumer satisfaction and confidence as this nascent industry transitions into a legal marketplace.”
Both the House and Senate need to officially vote on the new law. This is expected to happen before the end of the year. The Senate has already approved the bill as noted on the video. Many other countries including Canada have long allowed hemp to be grown legally. Canada has now legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
The drug Epidiolex has been legal since October under Section V of the controlled substances act. As the Verge reported:"Epidiolex, made by GW Pharmaceuticals, treats severe forms of childhood epilepsy and is the first drug derived from natural cannabis that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Epidiolex includes cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical that comes from the cannabis plant that is not psychoactive. (In terms of legality, no one really knows how to classify it yet.)" The new legislation will allow many other products using CBD to be legally marketed as it clarified the legal status of CBD.
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