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What is Hemp’s Current Legal Status in the U.S.?

As we continue to celebrate this year’s Hemp History Week, learn about hemp’s current status in the U.S. and what you can do to help end federal prohibition.

Despite hemp’s long history of cultivation and use in the United States, growing the crop for commercial purposes has been federally prohibited for almost 50 years. With the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, however, hemp is once again being legally planted on American soil.

President Barack Obama signed the Farm Bill, also known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, into law on February 7, 2014. Section 7606 of the statute, titled “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research,” gave authorization to state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher learning in states that have legalized hemp cultivation to grow the crop for research and pilot programs.

Since the implementation of the Farm Bill, more than 30 states have passed laws regarding industrial hemp. At least 16 of those states have approved laws allowing for commercial production, giving growers rights beyond those listed in the Farm Bill.

On the federal level, however, the commercial production of hemp remains prohibited. Because hemp was unfairly paired with its cannabis species cousin marijuana, the low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) crop is currently regulated under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.

Despite the laws regulating cultivation of the crop, hemp-derived products, such as supplements, body care products, food, paper, clothing, and building materials, are legal to purchase and use in all 50 U.S. states. The politicians who wrote up the Controlled Substances Act excluded hemp’s “mature stalks” and “oil or cake made from the weeds” and “sterilized seeds” from the law, so products made from these parts of hemp can be produced and purchased. The national hemp market is currently valued at $688 million, but the prohibition on commercial cultivation requires that nearly all the hemp used for products is imported, hindering American farmers.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, a bipartisan bill that would make the growing and processing of hemp legal for all farmers in the U.S., was introduced in both the House and Senate in 2015. If passed, hemp would no longer be classified as a controlled substance and all restrictions on the cultivation of hemp would be removed. So far, however, despite the demand for the hardy and renewable resource in the U.S. growing, the bill has remained stagnant.

How You Can Help the Hemp Movement

Join the growing movement of farmers, environmentalists, and cannabis advocates as we work together to encourage lawmakers to change federal hemp policies. Grassroots constituent support is the key ingredient in effectively influencing Congress and state legislatures.

Here are a few steps you can take to help the hemp movement:

  • Contact your representatives. Look up the phone number, mailing address, or email of your Representative and Senators and tell them you’d like them to renew their interest in the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.
  • Incorporate hemp into your everyday life! By purchasing hemp supplements, body care products, food and clothing, you’ll contribute to the growing demand for domestically-cultivated hemp.
  • Educate other people by making hemp a topic of conversation with friends and family. A great way to reach multiple people at once is on social media. Share this post to help more people learn about hemp.
  • Over 1,500 hemp-related events are happening this week. Find a Hemp History Week event near you.

Learn more about hemp and the long history of the crop in America by visiting our education page.