The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has long refused to grant permits for the legal cultivation of hemp, maintaining that, since industrial hemp comes from the same plant species as cannabis, both were prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. This was due to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, which declared hemp illegal in the United States. Recently, however, North Carolina passed a bill that would legalize industrial hemp production in the state. This new legislation has drastically transformed hemp policy in the United States.
Under the farm bill, Leader McConnell is a hemp hero, but he remains a staunch opponent of marijuana reform and his role in the Senate could be an obstacle to legislation passed by Democrats in the 116th Congress. The Drug Enforcement Administration has granted several dozen permits to grow hemp in nine states. The new Farm Bill does not create a completely free system in which individuals or companies can grow hemp whenever and wherever they want. It allows for cultivation of hemp in general, not simply pilot programs to study market interest in hemp-derived products.
In addition, there will be an important shared state and federal regulatory power over the cultivation and production of hemp. Any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered hemp-free cannabis or marijuana under federal law and would therefore have no legal protection under this new legislation. For decades, federal law did not differentiate hemp from other cannabis plants, all of which were declared illegal in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act and formally declared illegal in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act; the latter banned cannabis of any kind. In that legislation, there was an amendment that gave states and universities the right to research a plant whose cultivation of hemp has long been banned in the United States.
Hemp is not marijuana, but its resemblance to its cousin, cannabis, has kept it banned in the United States for decades, despite its variety of uses for textiles, food, cosmetics and other purposes. Trapped in the spotlight of the War on Drugs, which lasted from the 1970s to the 1990s, and with successive government administrations that failed to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, hemp cultivation practically did not exist until the 2000s. If you had to ingest hemp seeds in the hope of getting high, you wouldn't, and you could get a headache instead. The recent legalization of industrial hemp production in North Carolina is a major step forward for hemp policy in the United States.
However, it is important to note that Leader McConnell remains opposed to marijuana reform and his role in the Senate could be an obstacle to legislation passed by Democrats in Congress. The new Farm Bill does not create a completely free system for individuals or companies to grow hemp whenever and wherever they want; it allows for cultivation of hemp in general with shared state and federal regulatory power over its production. Any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered illegal under federal law.