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New Farm Bill Ends Era of Hemp Prohibition, but Supplements Get Dropped From SNAP Program

DaVinci Laboratories

President Trump has signed the 2018 Farm Bill, including the provisions which legalize the domestic cultivation, production, and commercial development of hemp, and hemp products at the federal level. This action comes after the Senate passed the legislation on Dec. 11 and the House of Representatives a day later.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), a coalition of over 120 farm and food-focused organizations working together to advance sustainable agriculture through federal policy and grassroots advocacy, issued the following statement in response:

“America’s family farmers, rural communities, and food insecure families have waited long enough for a new farm bill,” said Juli Obudzinski, NSAC interim policy director. “We are grateful that the President did not impose any further delays on this already prolonged process, and thank him for moving swiftly to sign the 2018 Farm Bill into law.

“Though the final bill included both victories and disappointments for the sustainable agriculture community,” said Obudzinski, “we want to emphasize for everyone who cares about the future of our farm and food system that the work doesn’t stop here. Farm bills might be passed every five years, but the reality is that they are a massive undertaking that take many years to develop, and many more to fully implement and evaluate. The next stages of this process—rulemaking, administrative reform, and program implementation—will be just as important as the legislative phase we’ve just completed.”

Companies, such as Calfornia-based Dr. Bronner’s, have supported efforts by Vote Hemp, a grassroots organization dedicated to the legalization of hemp farming in the U.S., and other advocates in the hemp movement, such as the Hemp Industries Association, to engage State and Federal legislators on the legalization of hemp farming. The company applauds the work of all of the tireless activists whose leadership and dedication has been fundamental in achieving this historic victory.

“This monumental progress toward returning hemp to American farmlands is in large part the result of Vote Hemp’s dedication and tenacious, strategic advocacy over the last 19 years,” said David Bronner, cosmic engagement officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s, which is a brand of natural soaps in North America that uses hemp seed oil in its products. “Dr. Bronner’s has advocated for the legalization of hemp farming since we added hemp seed oil to our products in 1999, and fought and beat the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] during the Hemp Food Rules Challenge from 2001 to 2004. As a maker of hemp products, we are eager to source the 20 tons of hemp seed oil we use annually from American farmers. We applaud the leadership of Eric Steenstra, truly a hemp champion, whose leadership of Vote Hemp has united hemp companies, farmers, consumers, and lawmakers into a potent fighting force for the future of hemp in America.”

Hemp is defined in the new law as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Provisions of the bill also amend the definition of “marihuana” in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, thereby completely removing hemp and all parts of the plant and all derivatives from that definition. This effectively removes all U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authority regarding hemp cultivation, production, or commercial activity for products that contain hemp or constituents of hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 with permanent amendments that categorize hemp as an agricultural commodity under the regulatory purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). By recognizing hemp as an agricultural commodity, this crop will now be eligible for federal programs such as crop insurance, agricultural research grants, and certification of organic production practices under the National Organic Program. Classification as an agricultural commodity also benefits hemp industry access to the financial services needed to support agricultural production of hemp and hemp products.

Other hemp provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill create requirements for hemp “plans” administered by individual States or Tribal governments such that hemp production is under individual State (or Tribal) controls. Over a one-year transition period, hemp plans (consisting of a system for tracking properties where hemp is grown and various controls to verify the crop is hemp) will be submitted to the USDA.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)  had a mixed reaction to the bill’s passage. As noted by Steve Mister, the association’s president and CEO, the final version of the farm bill does not include a provision that would allow SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to be used to purchase certain multivitamin-mineral dietary supplements.

“ … CRN applauds the inclusion of the Hemp Farming Act in the Farm Bill that removes hemp from the definition of marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and provides a framework for the lawful cultivation and marketing of hemp and its constituents, including cannabidiol (CBD),” Mister said in a Dec. 13 statement. “This provision removes one of the barriers to the lawful marketing of CBD in a range of dietary supplement, food, and personal care products and will allow for greater research and understanding of this substance as a legitimate agricultural commodity.

“The dietary supplement and functional food industry is now able to work with FDA to address the legal concerns it has raised with respect to CBD as a legitimate ingredient in food and dietary supplements. However, in anticipation of increased market interest in CBD, CRN reminds industry that the Farm Bill has no effect on FDA’s position that CBD is excluded from use in food and dietary supplements, citing a definitional matter that prohibits ingredients from being marketed in food or supplements if they were previously studied in clinical trials for pharmaceutical purposes. CRN looks forward to engaging with FDA to address those concerns.

“CRN is also disappointed that the SNAP Vitamin and Mineral Improvement Act was dropped from the conference version of the Farm Bill. An important step toward improving the nutrition status of low-income Americans, this provision would have allowed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase a multivitamin-mineral dietary supplement with their program benefits. CRN is encouraged by the strong support this effort received within Congress and among industry stakeholders, despite ultimately being derailed by political concerns. We are saddened that low-income Americans will not be given access to this option to help improve nutrient gaps in their diet. CRN remains committed to expanding consumer access to multivitamins and will continue to support policies that ensure all Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status, have equal opportunity for good nutrition.”