The new Farm Bill, which gets renewed every five years or so, has been in the news lately. The bill has been applauded for increasing support measures for little farms, but overall criticized for favoring factory farms and not doing enough where it does help. But we can debate about those issues some other time; from the perspective of medical cannabis, the bill is a huge step forward.
I remember seeing Ron Paul speak at the University of Florida about five years ago. As a young Libertarian, Ron Paul was my savior. His continuous bids for president always raised and then dashed my hopes for a freer America. Our people are just too attached to the teat of the nanny state to embrace such radical ideals. He ranted about the stupidity of our foreign wars, taxes, government waste, and the Federal Reserve, but what got the whole crowd most riled up was when he said ”And why the hell is industrial hemp still illegal? It’s not even a drug for crying out loud! It would take a joint the size of a flagpole to get me high!” Standing ovation.
The 2018 Farm Bill
It was naïve to think the Democrats would move us forward, the self-proclaimed progressive party that tends to pander to victim classes (and we pot smokers are the ultimate victim class). Instead we can thank Mitch McConnell, Republican, and Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky. Mitch insisted that cultivation of industrial hemp will no longer be illegal on an industrial level, and that it qualifies for the same farm subsidies as any other crop.
Mitch understands that hemp had been made illegal for political reasons (lobbying dollars from the lumber industry long ago), and can be an enormous cash crop for U.S. Farmers. Also, Mitch represents Kentucky, the state that benefitted most from industrial hemp cultivation before it was made illegal in 1937. So Mr. McConnell slid a clause into the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized industrial hemp federally, and got it passed and signed by the Orange Man himself. It was a business decision. Mitch was doing his job and representing his constituents, and we are all better off because of it.
So what does this mean?
So what does this mean? Hemp can now be transferred across state lines, there are no restrictions on its sale, and it can be cultivated across the United States (with a license). Also, derivatives of industrial hemp, such as CBD, are now legal as long as they are processed from industrial hemp. This is a huge step forward in our fight to legalization. But keep in mind there is still a ways to go. Mitch, and many others politicians, are still against the full legalization of cannabis for both recreational and medical purposes. But what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Hemp vs. marijuana
The farm bill legalizes hemp with no more than 0.3% THC, so like Ron Paul said, it would take a joint the size of a flag pole to get high. Also, every state needs to come up with an action plan on how to regulate hemp, and submit their plan to the USDA. The USDA will then either accept the plan, or deny it and force a federal licensing structure on the state. Additionally, any medical cannabis products derived from cannabis and not industrial hemp remain a federally illegal Schedule I substance. This means we are still living in the twilight zone in Florida, where medical marijuana is legal on the state level but illegal federally. This creates uncertainty in the marketplace, and pushes up the price.
Slow and steady wins the race, and just like the tortoise beat the hare in Aesop’s fable, Mitch McConnell has pushed us one slow step forward to winning our long race. Research into industrial hemp will now increase, the industry will grow, and Americans will become more comfortable with hemp farms growing in their back yards. Hemp based products will become more available in stores, investors will grow rich and fat on hemp stocks, and then politicians will be ready to make the next step into legalizing medical cannabis federally.
Regardless of your political affiliation, the next time you are swearing at your TV over political incompetence, pause and tip your fedora to Mitch for doing something good for us all.