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BREAKING: In Rare Bipartisan Effort Senate Votes To Legalize Hemp

PotNetwork Breaking News

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved a nonbinding resolution recognizing hemp's "growing economic potential." It was not the first year this has happened, but in past years nothing was done to back it up. But this year is turning out to be different. Now, in another significant signal that hemp’s day in the sun is coming, the Farm Bill, containing a measure to legalize hemp, has passed the U.S. Senate with broad bipartisan support. The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill passed by a wide margin with 86 senators voting in favor and only 11 voting against the legislation.  

But the fight is not over yet.

House Republican leaders previously blocked an attempt to include hemp legislation their version of the Farm Bill. A bicameral conference committee must now decide whether to include the measure as it merges the bills into a single bill which will be sent to the President to sign. The presidential sign off is seen as highly likely as White House statement of administration policy released this week expressed concern that the House version of the Farm Bill does not contain hemp legalization provisions.

What’s In the Bill

The language in the 2018 Farm Bill places the federal regulatory authority of hemp solely with USDA. It requires State Departments of Agriculture to file hemp program plans with the USDA but allows them to regulate hemp cultivation per their State-specific programs.

The bill defines hemp as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. It also authorizes access to federal research funding for hemp and removes restrictions on banking, water rights, and crop insurance for hemp farmers.

Furthermore, The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 expands federally legal commercial hemp cultivation to tribal lands, reservations, and U.S. territories.

U.S. Hemp Market Figures

As a direct result of successful hemp cultivation pilot programs in several states, sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps, and lotions have continued to increase.  According to hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp, to date, forty states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. Approximately 25,712 acres of hemp crops were planted in 19 states during 2017 in the U.S., according to Vote Hemp.

In a statement circulated yesterday by Vote Hemp, it was pointed out that according to a Congressional Research Service report released last week, "the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products."

Hemp Business Journal estimates a total $553 million in retail sales of hemp food, supplements, and body care products, while the full retail value of hemp clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products sold in the U.S. in 2017 to be at least $820 million.

According to The Journal, Of this $820 million hemp market, hemp foods constituted 17 percent ($137 million); personal care products constituted 22 percent ($181 million); textiles constituted 13 percent ($105 million); supplements constituted five percent ($45 million); hemp derived cannabidiol, or CBD products constituted 23 percent ($190 million), and consumer textiles constituted 13 percent ($105 million); industrial applications such as car parts constituted 18 percent ($144 million); and other consumer products such as paper and construction materials accounted for the remaining two percent ($16 million) of the market.

Hemp Business Journal expects the total U.S. hemp market to reach $1.9 billion by 2022.

What Senators Are Saying

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor earlier in the week to push for passage of the bill in two separate speeches. McConnell had previously introduced a standalone version of the legislation known as the Hemp Farming Act — which had 29 cosponsors including 17 Democrats, nine Republicans, and two independents — before inserting it into the Farm Bill which passed committee two weeks ago by a vote of 20 to one.

At that time, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a vocal opponent of marijuana law reform, threatened to push for the removal of language which also legalized the medicinal derivative, cannabidiol (CBD). Grassley, however, abandoned the notion, allowing the bill to proceed as written.

In his speech to the Senate on Thursday, McConnell had this to say:

"Consumers across America buy hundreds of millions in retail products every year that contain hemp. 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."

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) tweeted out the following:

BIG news for industrial hemp farming! Today, the Senate passed my bipartisan #HempFarmingAct, legislation that would lift a decades-old ban on growing industrial hemp on American soil. #RonReport pic.twitter.com/r0fBzseRIh

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 28, 2018

And upon passage of the bill, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) made this comment:

“Legalizing hemp nationwide ends decades of bad policymaking and opens up untold economic opportunity for farmers in Oregon and across the country. Our bipartisan legislation will spur economic growth in rural communities by creating much-needed red, white and blue jobs that pay well. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues to get the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act through the Senate. Today marks a long-overdue, huge step forward for American-grown hemp.”

And Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) had this to say in a speech on Wednesday:

"For the first time in 80 years, this bill legalizes hemp. We forget, but hemp was widely grown in the United States throughout the mid-1800s. Americans used hemp in fabrics, wine, and paper. Our government treated industrial hemp like any other farm commodity until the early 20th century, when a 1937 law defined it as a narcotic drug, dramatically limiting its growth. This became even worse in 1970 when hemp became a schedule I controlled substance. In Colorado, as is true across the country--I have talked to a lot of colleagues about this--we see hemp as a great opportunity to diversify our farms and manufacture high-margin products for the American people."

What Advocates Are Saying

In the organization’s statement, Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp makes this comment:

“As the U.S. hemp market continues to grow at a double digit pace annually, American consumers continue to demonstrate their strong interest in hemp products. We expect the rate of growth of the market to increase, as Congress has indicated its intention to finally lift federal prohibition on industrial hemp farming. Few other industries can so clearly prove the market demand for their products, whereas the hemp market has essentially tripled in the last 5 years as hemp farming advocates have made advancements in legalizing the crop at the state and federal levels.”

And Kentucky's Commisioner of Agriculture tweeted:

For farmers across KY, there is no piece of legislation more important than the #FarmBill. I am excited that @SenateMajLdr’s #HempFarmingAct made it into this measure, which will allow states to unleash the full economic potential of our industrial hemp pilot programs. #KyAg365 pic.twitter.com/HjU6OGKNjZ

— Commissioner Quarles (@KYAgCommish) June 28, 2018


*Stay tuned to PotNetwork News throughout the day as we update this breaking story with more reactions from across the country.

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