On the evening of Dec. 10, the 2018 Farm Bill House/Senate Conference Committee released its Conference Report. The 807-page document is nearly half a foot tall. Hemp is discussed in only a few handfuls of pages. As of press time, the Senate passed the bill on Dec. 11 by a vote of 87 to 13; the bill passed through the House on December 12, and is awaiting a signature into law by President Trump.
According to Jonathan Miller, general counsel with U.S. Hemp Roundtable (Kentucky), highlights of the bill are:
- The era of hemp prohibition is over. Hemp is now permanently removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It is forever deemed an agricultural commodity, no longer mistaken as a controlled substance, like marijuana.
- By redefining hemp to include its “extracts, cannabinoids and derivatives,” Congress explicitly has removed popular hemp products—such as hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD)—from the purview of the CSA. Accordingly, the Drug Enforcement Administration no longer has any possible claim to interfere with the interstate commerce of hemp products. This should give comfort to federally regulated institutions—banks, merchant services, credit card companies, e-commerce sites and advertising platforms—to conduct commerce with the hemp and hemp product industry.
- Hemp farmers now may finally access needed crop insurance and can fully participate in USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) programs for certification and competitive grants.
- State and Tribal governments may impose separate restrictions or requirements on hemp growth and the sale of hemp products—however, they cannot interfere with the interstate transport of hemp or hemp products.
- The FDA continues to exercise jurisdiction over the regulation of ingestible and topical hemp products.
And according to NPR, changes to food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), emerged as the biggest sticking point between the House and Senate bills and bogged down negotiations since the summer.
The House plan, which passed by the narrowest of margins and without single Democratic vote, called for those who receive the SNAP food subsidy to work more.
Because the stricter work requirements are gone from the final bill, House Democrats are largely poised to vote for its passage.
While the final compromise did preserve some portions of the House bill including some SNAP anti-fraud measures, the compromise bill is largely seen as a win for House Democrats and Senate negotiators. However, the final version of the farm bill does not include a provision that would allow SNAP benefits to be used to purchase certain multivitamin-mineral dietary supplements.