U.S. Senate Passes Farm Bill That Will Legalize Hemp

The bill now goes to the House, where a vote is expected before the end of the week.

The United States Senate today approved the Farm Bill that includes a provision that permanently legalizes hemp under federal law. The wide-ranging agricultural legislation passed with an overwhelming 87-13 vote.

The bill now heads to the U.S. House, where a vote is expected before week’s end. Once approved by the House, it will be sent to Donald Trump to sign into law.

The hemp provision, spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will end decades-long hemp prohibition and allow U.S. farmers to grow, process, and sell the non-intoxicating variety of cannabis commercially.

In opening remarks from the Senate floor this morning, McConnell said the inclusion of the hemp provision is “a victory for farmers and consumers throughout our country.”

Thought to be the first domesticated crop in human history, hemp is a non-intoxicating variety of cannabis that is harvested for its stalks and seeds to make thousands of products, including paper, textiles, green building materials, food, and cannabidiol (CBD) supplements.

“Now American-grown hemp can be found in your food, in your clothes and even in your car dashboard,” McConnell added. “The results mean jobs, economic growth and new opportunity.”

Hemp products are already legal to use, buy, and sell in the U.S., but under current law the crop must be imported. Even still, the imported hemp market in the U.S. reached a total market value of $688 million in 2016, and hemp is projected to be one of the 10 hottest food trends in 2019.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a cosponsor of the legislation to legalize hemp, said “the outrageous and outdated ban on growing hemp has hamstrung farmers in Oregon and across the country.”

“Hemp products are made in America, sold in America, and consumed in America. Now, hemp will be able to be legally grown in America, to the economic benefit of consumers and farmers in Oregon and nationwide.”

The Senate and House Agricultural Committees had reconciled their respective versions of the Farm Bill late last month after only one included language to legalize hemp.

The hemp provision had bipartisan support. Lawmakers had just been debating a controversial provision in the Senate’s version that would prohibit individuals with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry. A compromise was reached and the final version allows people with such past convictions to work for hemp businesses after 10 years.

Lawmakers had hoped to get the Farm Bill passed before the end of the year. McConnell has told members of Congress that they should be prepared to work through the holiday break to make sure this bill and others are seen all the way through.

If the bill is signed into law, hemp will no longer be controlled by the Justice Department. Instead, it will be lightly regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Hemp Farming Act is supported by Vote Hemp, the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NSCL), and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).

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