Negotiations to eliminate a proposed rule that would ban drug felons from joining in the industrial hemp boom are reported to have moved off center, but latest proposals arising out of U.S. Farm Bill negotiations would still force those with federal drug convictions to sit on the sidelines for a decade.
In what critics will no doubt see as a tepid move, a “compromise” is reported to have emerged that would let such felons grow hemp beginning 10 years after their convictions, McClatchy reported.
Grandfathered into hemp
Oddly, negotiators have also apparently agreed that felons already growing hemp under an earlier Farm Bill (2014) would be allowed to continue, thus creating two classes of felons for the American hemp industry.
Congressional negotiations over the long-awaited 2018 Farm Bill – key to cracking wide the American hemp markets – are expected to result in final legislation next week.
The original Farm Bill would have banned nearly all drug felons from growing hemp, presumably for life.
‘Ban will affect people’s lives’
“Any ban will still have an adverse affect on people with felony convictions who are trying to get their lives back in order and would unfairly lock people out of new job opportunities they desperately need,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs at Drug Policy Alliance, told kentucky.com.
Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress, industry groups and judicial reform advocates have pushed back against the felon ban. Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, a co-sponsor of the broader hemp legislation, was an architect of the new felony compromise.
“No other agricultural commodities in the U.S. have this type of restriction,” Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, wrote in a letter to House and Senate negotiators. Paul was the lead Republican co-sponsor on Democrat Wyden’s bill to legalize hemp in 2012.
Legislators opposed to the felon ban said it would be especially hard on blacks and Hispanics, who make up most of those in the U.S. criminal justice system, to get jobs in hemp or start hemp businesses.
Congress is expected to release final details of the completed Farm Bill next week, with a vote shortly thereafter.