Industrial hemp may soon be legal in the United States. On April 12, 2018, United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Industrial Hemp Act of 2018, a bill legalizing industrial hemp nationwide.
Although the United States is one of the largest importers of hemp in the world, and despite the fact that hemp contains no psychoactive substances, the cultivation of hemp is strictly illegal due to its close relation to cannabis. In recent years, however, there has been a growing movement to legalize hemp; thanks in part to the proliferation of legal cannabis across the nation.
Under the proposed legislation, hemp would become legal in the United States and would no longer be listed as a controlled substance. This would allow hemp farmers to have access certain services and rights that they were previously blocked from. For example, hemp farmers would gain access to banking services, waters rights, and would be able to apply for flood insurance. Individual states would be able to self-regulate hemp production so long as they develop a program to monitor its production.
This is not the first piece of hemp legislation that McConnell has supported. In 2014, the Senate Majority leader attached a rider to a farm bill which protected state-run industrial hemp research programs from federal interference. This has allowed farmers to grow hemp on a limited basis, but far short of what they would like.
“As the tobacco industry has changed, some farmers in states like Kentucky have been searching for a new crop that can support their families and grow our agricultural economy,” said McConnell as he introduced the legislation. “And many believe they’ve found such a product: industrial hemp. But the federal government has stood in the way. Mr. President, it’s time to change that.”
Co-sponsoring the bill is Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who introduced a similar measure to the Senate in 2015. Although the measure garnered bi-partisan support, including Senate leaders like McConnell, the measure never received a hearing and subsequently died.
“It is really a milestone to have the majority leader of the Senate working with a bipartisan group of us to lift a restriction that is anti-farmer, certainly anti-consumer and anti-common sense,” added Wyden. “The only thing you’re going to accomplish by smoking hemp is wasting your breath, wasting your time and wasting lighter fluid.”