During a press conference at the US Hemp Roundtable in Frankfort, Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a plan to introduce legislation next week that would protect and advance hemp production in the United States. The proposed Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would “finally legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are co-sponsoring the bill.

The Hemp Farming Act would remove federal barriers burdening hemp production and research by removing it from the list of controlled substances (under the Controlled Substances Act or “CSA”) and making the states the primary regulators of hemp rather than the federal government. Additionally, since hemp will no longer be classified as a controlled substance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) would be permitted to award researchers with federal grants.

Industrial hemp can be utilized for a long list of uses, ranging from food sources, to sustainable energy, to hemp plastics, construction materials, and the list goes on. Hemp products have recently seen a rise in popularity among US consumers, appearing on store shelves nationwide in far greater numbers than in previous years.

Currently, as Forbes states, “confusion over what counts as research as well as issues related to the interstate transportation of hemp seeds has caused confusion as the Drug Enforcement Administration has in some cases sought to enforce federal laws that do not distinguish between hemp and marijuana.” This bill would clear up these confusions and open the door for hemp research and development currently burdened by federal law.

It is still unclear what effect this bill would have on the legal status of CBD and other cannabinoids if those cannabinoids are derived from hemp which is still Cannabis sativa L. and therefore subject to the Controlled Substances Act.

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