Industrial Hemp Makes a Legitimized Step Forward In Congress With the Support of the American Farm Bureau

On Monday, September 25, the American Farm Bureau officially endorsed the bill H.R. 3530, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017. The bill was introduced to Congress earlier this summer on July 28th, and is in its earliest stages of the legislative process.

H.R. 3530 was sponsored by Representative James Comer of Kentucky’s 1st district, and seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from Schedule I categorization, separating it from its controversial cousin, marijuana. Because it has been aligned with substances like marijuana, MDMA, LSD, and Heroin under the Controlled Substances Act, its potential has been limited, especially under the control of the DEA.

Before H.R.3530, there was some progress for industrial hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill, passed under President Obama in 2014, allowed states to “study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp,” under the supervision of research institutions and state departments of agriculture. Since the bill passed, at least 30 states passed legislation that legitimizes research of industrial hemp, but universal progress has been prevented by hemp’s Schedule I categorization, along with the DEA’s aggressive campaign against hemp.

In 2015, another act was introduced into congress, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015. This act also moved to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

According to Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, industrial hemp “has been misaligned with its cannabis cousin, marijuana.” In his letter to Representative Comer endorsing H.R. 3530, he writes, “It’s also unfortunate that a great deal of agricultural heritage in hemp seed genetics, crop research, and technological innovation have been hindered or lost entirely.” He also writes:

The United States is the only major industrialized country that cannot legally grow industrial hemp. Yet, according to the Congressional Research Service, we are the largest importer of its materials with annual sales exceeding $600 million, most of it coming from Canada. This is a lost economic opportunity, not only for American farmers but also for industrial hemp processing and manufacturing industries.

From its current level of research, hemp and ingredients derived from it have benefitted many markets. Duvall expresses that the markets for industrial hemp includes but is not limited to, “foods and beverages, cosmetics and personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, super-capacitor batteries, [and] automotive products.” So, how this support from the American Farm Bureau aid hemp in its path to full legitimization?

It is extremely significant to the progress of H.R. 3530 that the American Farm Bureau backs this legislation. The American Farm Bureau identifies itself as “the unified national voice of agriculture, working through our grassroots organizations to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities,” According to Michael Freelander, President of Indica LLC and supporter of the national hemp roundtable and involved member of the new publication Hemp Today, “The backing of one of the nation’s leading voices for US agriculture is a very significant step in our efforts to ensure permanent legal recognition of hemp as an agricultural commodity, not a controlled substance.” He also argues that this bill would finally allow farmers within the United States to plant and harvest hemp void of DEA scrutiny or limitation, allowing the possibilities for hemp to be unlocked, explored, and utilized in mainstream U.S. industry.

For the general public that has plea for legalized and legitimized industrial hemp production, the newfound support of the farm community found in the American Farm Bureau is a significant step forward towards fully-fledged legalization.