Custom Search 1
Derek Thomas – Political Analyst
Will hemp be federally legal before marijuana? It’s looking like a strong possibility, and the economic implications would be huge.
Since 2005 there have been a total of nine attempts to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act – six bills in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate. All of the bills died in committee.
Now the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 is back for its 10th attempt (this version is a House bill) – and supporters of the bill, including a bi-partisan coalition of congressional leaders, think this time will be different.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) told The Cannabist “With the introduction of The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 by Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer, Congress is closer than ever to exempting hemp plants – defined as having less than 0.3 percent THC – from the C.S.A. and recognizing it as an agricultural commodity. He continued with “For the first time since I started work on this issue years ago, I’m confident that the finish line is in sight to create new opportunities in industrial hemp for Colorado farmers, processors and consumer product companies”.
The Democratic Comer joined Republicans Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Bob Goodlatte and Virginia to introduce the bill last month. Rep Comer said the bill, which ended up having a total of 16 co-sponsors (a good start!) would allow states that have passed laws regulating industrial hemp “to continue having a robust hemp economy without interference from the federal government and will encourage investment in processing as well as farming.”
When you consider that only five states have no current or planned hemp laws, the implications behind the bill are huge.
The biggest challenge the bill faces, according to NHA executive director Erica McBride, is educating lawmakers and the general public about the differences between marijuana and hemp. “We have to make both groups aware of the possibilities and benefits that the industrial hemp industry has to offer” she said. “Hemp has been so closely entwined with the marijuana issue for such a long time that it’s a mindset that’s difficult to get past.”
Regardless of an uncertain political climate (both within the hemp issue itself and surrounding the greater political atmosphere in the USA at the moment), McBride feels it is the right time for congressional action towards industrial hemp.
“It’s pretty obvious that Congress is hungry for some bipartisan work that it can actually get done,” she said. “With all this chaos swirling around the (Trump Administration), I’m very hopeful that — if we do our job properly on the education side — we can convince them that this bill is something that they really should latch on to, come together on, to show this country that they can get stuff done.”
Primary sponsor Comer has been advocating for the crop since he was Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture.
“By removing industrial hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act will finally allow for responsible, commercial production of industrial hemp without fear of violating federal law,” Comer said in his joint press release.
2017 has been an incredibly divided year. The political landscape is more divded than ever, and the American people seem to be following Washington’s lead on this growing division (or is it vice-versa?).
Who would have thought that it would be hemp that would actually be a bridging topic?
One of the reasons for this common ground is hemp’s history in the United States and its economic potential for the districts of House members. For example, Kentucky has historically produced some of the worlds’ finest hemp, and both of its senators, Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, are strong supporters of industrial hemp.
Last June, Paul sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling on him to take a hands-off approach with banking accounts linked to farmers, research groups and other individuals or organizations associated with industrial hemp ventures.
“While we do not believe the government should compel financial institutions to do business with the hemp industry,” the letter said, “we are worried that the fear and uncertainty of government action…is causing financial institutions to close these accounts.”
Paul is also calling on “big government” to “get out of the way” when it comes to America’s rapidly-growing industrial hemp industry.
Last week, when Paul spoke to Kentucky hemp farmer and processors, Paul criticized the fact that farmers couldn’t use hemp as feed for livestock. He said he didn’t like the idea “that we would have to ask somebody in Washington for permission to feed the root of the plant to a chicken or to a cow.”
Hemp, often touted as the next ‘billion-dollar industry’ could help replace jobs lost in the struggling coal mining industry for the Appalachia area, scoring major political points for republicans without deepening the divide between them and democrats.
When you factor in the total economic potential of all of hemp’s known industrial uses (building and construction materials, food products, clothing, industrial clean up products, animal feed, nutraceuticals, graphene substitutes, CBD’s, and ethanol) it’s surprising that more legislators – and our president – are not willing to give hemp a shot at improving the welfare of farmers, entrepreneurs, local and state economies, and the earth.