Farm Bill framework seeks to define hemp, doesn’t mention delta-8 THC

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Image of indoor hemp grown in Texas

(Photo by Kevin Brown for MJBizDaily/Emerald)

Democratic leaders on the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee seek to define industrial hemp in the upcoming U.S. Farm Bill, according to a framework the group unveiled Wednesday.

The framework stops short of attempting to put the genie back in the bottle for intoxicating hemp-based cannabinoids, which  inadvertently were legalized in 2018, when that year’s Farm Bill authorized industrial-hemp production nationwide.

On page 74 of the 94-page section about agricultural commodities, the Senate framework indicated lawmakers seek to define industrial hemp and lower “regulatory barriers for farmers who are growing industrial hemp for grain and fiber.”

“We’re very pleased to see that there’s a reduced regulatory burden on hemp grain and fiber farmers,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told MJBizDaily on Wednesday.

Removing hemp’s felon ban

Creators of the framework also seek to eliminate a ban that currently prohibits people convicted of a felony from producing hemp or participating in the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program.

Miller said the U.S. Hemp Roundtable was “thrilled” that the Farm Bill framework seeks to remove the felon ban, which was part of a compromise to get hemp included in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“We’ve been fighting to get it repealed ever since then,” Miller said of the 2018 concession.

“We think farmers who have paid their time should be able to grow a completely legal crop.

“We also don’t want other farmers hassled with having to get background checks when they haven’t done anything wrong, either.”

Republican leaders from the House Ag Committee also released a framework for the 2024 U.S. Farm Bill, although it made no mention of hemp.

Reduced regulatory burden and repealing the felon ban both were part of the Hemp Roundtable’s Farm Bill priorities, which were co-signed by 33 nonprofit groups representing domestic hemp farmers.

“The devil’s in the details,” Miller cautioned about the framework released Wednesday.

“But any progress on this front would be very much welcomed by the industry.”

No word on intoxicating hemp

U.S. hemp farmers have eagerly awaited news of whether hemp would be addressed by the Farm Bill, which was extended after it expired in 2023, as a growing number of states continue to ban or regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids.

In March, 20 state attorneys general asked Congress to address the issue of intoxicating hemp cannabinoids, insinuating that they present a “health and safety crisis.”

When hemp production was legalized in 2018, conservative lawmakers opposed to marijuana reform voted in favor of the Farm Bill, hoping to create economic prosperity in the country’s struggling agricultural regions.

A boom in the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) followed – as did a glut of hemp – until savvy chemists realized unused CBD could be synthesized into delta-8 THC, an intoxicating cannabinoid found in minuscule amounts of both hemp and marijuana.

But neither Farm Bill framework released Wednesday makes any mention of delta-8 THC or other controversial cannabinoids.

Miller told MJBizDaily that any effort to “treat (hemp-based cannabinoids) like marijuana … will also wreak havoc on the nonintoxicating CBD industry because most full-spectrum CBD products have some THC in them.”

“We’ve been afraid that the Farm Bill might include that language and have been lobbying very aggressively not to see it.

“So far, it wasn’t mentioned in either bill, and we hope it doesn’t find the light of day.”

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