While the federal government has spent years classifying hemp as a dangerous drug because it derives from the cannabis plant—even though it is not a drug at all—more than 70 percent of the states in the country have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp production and farmers in more than 30 percent of states have taken part in producing industrial hemp, even with the threat of federal prosecution.
Instead of bowing down to the federal government, states across the country have started to fight back, and farmers in 17 states—California, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming—have obtained state licenses to produce industrial hemp for commercial purposes.
A report from the National Conference of State Legislators also revealed more than half of the country, or 35 states, have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp production, which have addressed “the definition of hemp, licensure of growers, regulation and certification of seeds, state-wide commissions and legal protection of growers.”
Hemp is the product of a variety of the cannabis plant, and although it is non-psychoactive, it is still treated as a drug in the United States. However, hemp has the potential to be used in more than 25,000 products, including fibers, textiles, paper and construction and insulation materials—which may explain why the federal government seems intent on keeping it from the public.
The changes at the state level seem to be making a significant impact, and even though there is a lingering threat of prosecution from the federal level, a report from Hemp Industry Daily claimed that “the U.S. market for hemp-derived CBD hit $291 million in 2017 and will balloon to $1.65 billion by 2021—growth of more than 500% in just four years.”
The Hemp Report noted:
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“Hemp’s remarkable growth is drawing the attention of a diverse group of investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. Many new entrants to the hemp industry have no familiarity with cannabis; others are longtime marijuana operators looking for new opportunities. All are facing dramatic headwinds as hemp processing struggles to keep up with investor and consumer enthusiasm for the plant.”
As The Free Thought Project has reported, “prior to 1937, hemp was legally grown in the U.S. but the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act—while not technically criminalizing hemp—taxed hemp in such a way as to make it unlawful to possess or grow.” When the law was eventually declared unconstitutional in 1969, the U.S. government then passed the Controlled Substances Act, which set regulations for both cannabis and industrial hemp.
While hemp arguably should have never been made “illegal” in the first place, there is still hope that it will soon receive the federal government’s blessing. Last month, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the 2018 Farm Bill with a vote of 86-11, which includes a provision that would legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. This vote came just two weeks after the legislation was approved by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, with a vote of 20-1.
The provision to legalize hemp was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was also responsible for including protections for industrial hemp research programs in the 2014 version of the bill—even though he still thinks the psychoactive varieties of cannabis should be illegal.
“This legislation also will remove the federal barriers in place that have stifled the industry, which will help expand the domestic production of hemp,” McConnell said in a press release. “It will also give hemp researchers the chance to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—allowing them to continue their impressive work with the support of federal research dollars.”
The fact that the overwhelming majority of states in the country have passed laws legalizing hemp production, coupled with the fact that farmers in 17 states are actively fighting back against the federal government by producing commercial hemp, has set a landmark precedent that will hopefully pave the way for all Americans to one day enjoy the freedom to use both hemp, and all derivatives of the cannabis plant, without fear of being kidnapped and caged by law enforcement.