The 2018 version of the Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and now moves to the House, features the typical hodgepodge of provisions affecting farmers across the United States — and it also includes a measure that could represent a watershed moment for industrial hemp.
The mammoth bill includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, a measure that has been supported by an odd coalition of senators who don't see eye-to-eye on many issues, but have worked together on this: Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, along with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
The Hemp Farming Act defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and removes it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also allows researchers to apply for competitive federal grants and makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.
The market for hemp goods has grown into an $820 million annual business — and the United States has become the world's largest consumer of hemp products, which include items such as soap, lotion, lip balm, food, clothing and paper products. With a market that size, you can see why U.S. farmers would be itching for the chance to grow industrial hemp.
However, current federal law includes hemp on the Schedule I list of controlled substances, just like marijuana; this is the list that's reserved for substances that the Drug Enforcement Agency believes are highly addictive and have no therapeutic value. The listing, of course, is silly in the case of marijuana, and it's even more ludicrous for industrial hemp.
Here's why: It's not hemp that gets people high, it's the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. Industrial hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC. It isn't going to give anyone a buzz.
Despite the potential of industrial hemp, farmers can be reluctant to plant the crop, for good reasons: For starters, even if you’re a farmer in one of the states that has defined industrial hemp as being distinct from marijuana (the list includes Oregon and Kentucky), you still must seek a waiver from the DEA to grow the crop or risk raids by federal agents.
The Hemp Farming Act seeks to finally sweep all this silliness aside.
You never know what's going to happen to any piece of legislation once it journeys over to the other chamber of Congress. Regardless, representatives should allow the Hemp Farming Act to remain in the Farm Bill, so that farmers in Oregon and across the United States finally have the chance to cash in on what looks to be an extremely promising crop. (mm)
Monday's editorial about a proposed ballot measure that would reduce most criminal penalties for the manufacture, delivery and possession of psilocybin (the hallucinogen contained in psychedelic mushrooms) contained a major misstatement that warrants correction.
The chief petitioners behind the measure, Thomas and Sheri Eckert, say their goal in the measure is not at all to build a regulatory structure similar to how the state of Oregon currently handles legalized marijuana. (We misread a statement in some of the documents surrounding the initiative petition and came to an incorrect conclusion about what the Eckerts intended.)
Instead, Thomas Eckert told us, the idea behind the proposal is to allow the use of the hallucinogen only in a relatively small number of licensed and regulated clinics under the guidance of professionals. Under the proposal, people would not be allowed to simply purchase psilocybin for use elsewhere, the way they can now with marijuana. "This is a totally different animal," Eckert said — and, to be fair, the small number of clinics envisioned by the measure might end up lessening the regulatory load facing the Oregon Health Authority if the measure qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters. (mm)