On Thursday, December 20, President Trump signed into effect The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, a corollary to the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing hemp cultivation and production throughout the United States. The passage of The Hemp Farming Act represents the most significant shift in Federal legislative policy towards marijuana since adoption of the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment in 2001, which prevented the Department of Justice from allocating funds toward the prosecution of state-compliant medical marijuana regimes.
Hemp is a variant of the marijuana plant containing low amounts of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”). While hemp and traditional marijuana are both derived from the same species, Cannabis sativa, and both contain THC, hemp has a wide range of industrial applications including paper, textiles, and biofuels. Hemp was made illegal to grow in the U.S. without a permit in 1970 after enactment of the Controlled Substances Act.
Following sinking profits in flagging agricultural industries like dairy and tobacco, legalized hemp production could provide a boon to farmers seeking a sustainable alternative to traditional agricultural commodities. Some analysts and industry insiders forecast that hemp sales could top $20 billion by 2022.
The Hemp Farming Act may provide a path instructive of legalization for other marijuana derivatives. Advocates hope the bill will lead next to the legalization of cannabidiol (“CBD”), the non-psychoactive component of the marijuana plant, which is frequently used for treatment of neurological and muscular disorders. And while repeal of marijuana prohibition in its entirety is likely still years away, The Hemp Farming Act is an important step signaling a notable shift in federal policy.