U.S. hemp measure sails through Senate with bi-partisan support

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American lawmakers and industrial hemp advocates cheered yesterday’s passage of the U.S. Farm Bill by the country’s Senate on an 86-11 vote. Signing of the law by President Donald Trump would legalize growing, processing and sale of hemp, let farmers get insurance for the crop and leave states to frame more specific programs for the industry.

Under the measure, hemp will be treated as a commodity crop, but will still be controlled and monitored by each state’s Department of Agriculture. It would also let farmers compete for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to expand hemp research.

Ending decades of bad policy

“Legalizing hemp nationwide ends decades of bad policymaking and opens up untold economic opportunity for farmers in Oregon and across the country,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon. “Today marks a long-overdue, huge step forward for American-grown hemp.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and leader of the Senate, had earlier introduced a Hemp Farming Act, stand-alone legislation to legalize hemp, provisions of which are in the larger Farm Bill. The stand-alone act gathered 17 Democrats, nine Republicans and two independents as co-sponsors. The Act would remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances list and set guidelines through which states can submit their programs for approval to the USDA.

Both parties support measure

The overwhelming support for hemp in the U.S. Congress marks it as one of very few bi-partisan issues in the fractured American political scene.

“Consumers across America buy hundreds of millions in retail products every year that contain hemp,” McConnell said in the Senate Thursday before the vote. “But due to outdated federal regulations that do not sufficiently distinguish this industrial crop from its illicit cousin, American farmers have been mostly unable to meet that demand themselves. It’s left consumers with little choice but to buy imported hemp products from foreign-produced hemp.”

Anti-CBD effort is put down

Significantly, proponents in the Congress put down a late effort by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa, to make CBD illegal.

A conference committee made up of congressmen and senators will merge parallel farming bills into a single piece of legislation to be sent to Trump for approval.

Ominously, a White House statement of administration policy released this week, while not citing any problems with its hemp provisions, could imply further delays in its final enactment.

Until 2014, growing hemp in the USA was illegal due to its official status as a Controlled Substance since 1970. A 2014 Farm Bill, however, allwed for the creation of state hemp pilot programs. Since that time soe 40 states set hemp measures.

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