The $867 billion 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law by the President on December 20th, 2018.
The reconciled farm bill mainly just reauthorized many expenditures in the prior 2014 Farm Bill. However, it put an end to five decades of hemp prohibition. Hemp was afforded limited legal protections in 2014, when Congress passed a farm bill that authorized states to develop pilot programs for its research. The 2014 Farm Bill eventually gave rise to a patchwork of state regulations regarding hemp and hemp-derived CBD. While the bill did include legislation that impacts traditional U.S. farmers, the portion of the bill that stands to have the most impact is the part that focuses on hemp.
The 2018 Farm Bill, among other things:
- Removed hemp’s low amounts of THC from the Controlled Substances Act;
- Allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate the crop like any other agricultural commodity;
- Permits hemp products – like CBD – to be introduced into interstate commerce.
- Allows hemp production in all 50 states for any use, including flower production and CBD or other cannabinoid extraction;
- Allows interstate commerce for hemp and hemp-derived CBD
However, this updated guidance was interpreted and misinterpreted throughout the hemp industry, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) is trying to provide clearer guidance on the new bill.
After the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA Commissioner published an update on hemp and CBD regulations, restating existing policies, but reminding the public that the 2018 Farm Bill did not necessarily change the FDA’s authority to regulate products with cannabis and its derivatives, but pointed to the idea that with the increased public interest in cannabis, the FDA needs to clarify its regulations.
Delineating responsibilities, the USDA stated that it will regulate the growing of hemp, and the FDA will oversee any products containing hemp or CBD that are sold as food additives, topicals, drugs or dietary supplements. Interstate commerce of hemp and hemp products can now legally take place, but individual states have the power to refuse to allow sales in their state.
Even though hemp remains subject to the FDA framework that’s already in place, the FDA is working on providing potential pathways for products that contain cannabis compounds. The FDA continues to monitor CBD products that claim therapeutic benefits, similar to other non-CBD products.
Even though the Farm Bill de-scheduled CBD as a controlled substance, many U.S. states still have bans in place, such as Maine, North Carolina, and Ohio. All have all imposed bans on CBD, citing the FDA’s ambiguous rules. However, the hemp industry has increasingly been working outside of federal regulations and must now work with the agency to ensure hemp and CBD products meet the predefined categories set by the FDA and are legal for interstate commerce. We expect that in the near future, we will receive clearer and unambiguous guidance. Until then, there remains uncertainty around the “legalish” CBD and hemp industry.
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