The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp this week, lifting “outdated restrictions” at the federal level, said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, who worked with farmers and others to lift those restrictions.
The bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and removes it from the list of controlled substances. It also allows researchers to apply for federal grants and makes crop insurance available to hemp farmers.
“Finally we are recognizing industrial hemp for the agricultural product it is,” Merkley said. “This is a cash crop that hasn’t been allowed to meet its full economic potential because of outdated restrictions. This full legalization provides economic opportunity for farmers across rural Oregon and rural America — good for jobs, good for our communities and just good common sense.”
Hemp was extensively grown in America throughout the 1700s, until 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act taxed all cannabis sales — including hemp — which heavily discouraged its production.
And despite extensive use of it in thousands of different products — and a resurgence of growing during World War II — Congress in 1970 included it as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, lumping it into the same category as LSD and heroin.
Hemp and cannabis have an extensive interwoven history as it relates to law in America.
Many from that era say laws making cannabis illegal was merely a way for scared, white man to suppress the revolts of the African Americans in the 1930s — and hippies in the 1960s, according to the New York Times.
It wasn’t until 2014, when President Barack Obama signed the farm bill and included allowing research institutions to conduct pilot hemp farms that it became a viable economic topic to consider again.
Federal leaders tried in 2015 and 2016 to remove federal restrictions on industrial hemp and legalize its cultivation.
Hemp is used to make rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation and biofuel among many other items.
A farmer in Eagle Point was the first to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to obtain a license to grow hemp in 2015. Licenses issued in Oregon increased from 230 in 2017 to 560 in 2018.
The legislation was co-sponsored by senators in Kentucky and Oregon, including Sens. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and Ron Wyden.