Legislating the Hemp-isphere Brings Billions if Farm Bill Passes

Puff, puff, pass the farm bill, some might be thinking. But it stems not from medicinal factors but many ill-considered reasons since hemp was banned oh-so-many years ago. Frankly, gobs and gobs of money can be cha-chinged from hemp cultivation if the pending Farm bill passes. The Farm Bill is expected to meet muster by the end of this week, greenlighting cultivation of cannabis plants from which hemp would be harvested. If hemp were a legalized commodity, billions of dollars would go into the pockets of investors and others, including politicians involved in legislating this agricultural buddy with a focus on (ahem) personal riches. Free market, right?

First we need to clear up common misconception, the one which believes hemp is nothing more than a buzz-feed.

The stalk of a type of cannabis plant, hemp —Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD— has multiple uses in industry, transportation, and myriad products. Hemp resource sites claim roughly 25,000-plus everyday products are manufactured with hemp. The cars and trucks we operate have panels composed of hemp, for example. According to ministryofhemp.com, hemp and marijuana are “both part of the cannabis family,” but from different plants. One gets you high, the other one only fractionally. Marijuana has more of a psychoactive effect from its higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) whereas hemp has much less.

More in line with the growing legislation enacted by most of the fifty states, statutes have been crafted predominately to decriminalize weed so as to aid folks with certain health woes—medicinal marijuana use is now legal in many states while recreational cannabis use is in a few. Hemp, from which low-grade CBD oils are derived, can be purchased over-the-counter and is used for/by people suffering chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, PTSD, and anxiety among other physical/mental ailments. Most hemp-processed CBD derivatives are imported from China, the world’s largest hemp grower. Thus we learn of yet another product for which we rely on China. Can we change that? Yes, and the following material explains why and how we are at the hemp crossroads, poised and waiting on the U.S. Senate to re-explore hemp-isphere legislation.

Hemp Hubbub

We go retro, when then-President Richard Nixon trumpeted the “War on Drugs” campaign culminating in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, because of which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was born. A list of prohibited drugs was their purpose for enforcement. Well, whether it be from overzealous legislators or impatient politicians planning the war on drugs, they put just about everything in the potthe metal kind.

The cultivation experts at Ministry of Hemp put it this way: the Controlled Substances Act “unintentionally outlawed one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops, hemp. This not only led to the demise of hemp, but also an increased misconception of the plant.” As we discussed above, hemp is far less an organic feel-good provision as much as it is an organic material incorporated into vast sources of useable products throughout the globe. Any time you wipe down your dashboard with Armor All, you are buffing laminate-covered hemp. Heck, of its 25,000-plus uses, the vinyl dash covering may have hemp in it as well.

The Hemp gurus added, “marijuana was grouped with all types of cannabis and was made illegal to grow in the US. This, unfortunately, classified hemp as a drug even though it doesn’t include any of the chemicals that make marijuana a drug.” To muddy the waters even more, a monochromatic view of something green in the crosshairs  of the federal government wound up in what is known as the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Given that marijuana and hemp are cousins, taxing marijuana in 1937 meant hemp had to take the fall as well. Thus the decline of hemp. Citizens tend to lose interest in certain things when they learn they may have to pay a tax for them. That resulted in hemp growers going belly up. As hemp historians put it: “If the Marijuana Tax Act started the decline of hemp, this [Controlled Substances Act of 1970] put the final nail in the coffin for the hemp industry.” It was then and still is classified as a Schedule I drug, despite its use in your shiny dashboard. But, but…how’s that possible? From where is this fiber (hemp) originating?

It is possible via importation of the product/parts made in/imported from nations where hemp is perfectly legal. Although the United States drug schedule outlaws hemp from being grown in/on U.S. soil, it does not bar importation of hemp cultivated in other countries. Since 1998, our nation has done just that. Wonder what kind of revenue those other nations are reaping from their legal cultivation of hemp. With all the health benefits of hemp (high-fiber cereal) and, you know, that other green stuff (money), why are we lagging in making it lawful?

Fast forward to present day and consideration of the Farm Bill on the table this week.

The Farm Bill seeks to loosen the binds of long-held restrictions based on federal drug law adaptations (Controlled Substances Act) which maintains classifications outlawing substances such as cocaine and marijuana, both of which are dubiously equalized as Schedule 1 drugsthat’s another argument on the table.

The long-held contention is that the two aforementioned drugs are equally punishable under the same statute. The crux underlying the seemingly infinite argument is that cannabis is far less dangerous than cocaine and therefore should be re-categorized under federal drug laws. It seems we are slowly but surely wading in those waters. Regarding hemp, we are distinguishing the reeds from the seeds.

Rope: one of the many common products derived from the organic and significantly fibrous nature of hemp. (Credit: Pixabay/Detmold)

Honing Hemp

Folks at VoteHemp.com have been chronicling movements related to hemp legislation. Among the congressional proponents of hemp, the gentleman from Kentucky stands out as a vocal spearhead.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell asserted his interest for hemp cultivation and echoed the life-threatening risks associated with tobacco to make his pitch for hemp cultivation, the industrial benefits, and the economic boon to be derived after it’s growth is legalized. Labeling it “industrial hemp,” Sen McConnell pitched it this way:

“I know there are farming communities all over the country who are interested in this. Mine are particularly interested in it, and the reason for that is, as all of you know, our No. 1 cash crop used to be something that’s not good for you: tobacco. And that has declined significantly, as it should, given the public health concerns.” That draws the specter of our farming industry and those who work diligently by tilling the land for consumptive goods benefitting our populace…and the vast dividends to be reaped on so doing. The following video recorded on the Senate floor sums up the hemp legislative momentum:

Alluding to the Marijuana Tax Act and the Controlled Substances Act, Sen. McConnell mentioned that “the federal government stood in the way” of practical hemp legislation, a historical perspective spoken candidly. In the oration you just heard, he also claimed beer is being made from hemp. Again, over 25,000 uses from a stalk grown in conducive climates found all across America…and its enormous agricultural economy boost.

Despite differences and fluctuations in hemp valuations made by varying agricultural industry think tanks and market analysts, between two and 22 billion dollars by 2022 is waiting to be seeded then plucked—hemp revenue is not mere chump change. Market analysts with Brightfield Group (interesting name given the product we are discussing) estimate the high end $22 billion, whereas Hemp Industry Daily suggests the conservative range of $2.5 to $3.1 billion in hemp cultivation over the next four years…providing the Farm Bill is signed into law books.

From Politico I gleaned the following figure: “The [Farm] bill, which has an estimated price tag of $867 billion over a decade, could have a floor vote in the House as soon as Wednesday.” Regardless of the seemingly huge disparity in revenue figures, billions to be made is the common denominator.

To weight the differences between before/after expenditures on imports and simply growing our own hemp, among the figures I found, the United States currently forks over between $600-$880 million per year in exchange for other countries’ hemp products.

Moreover, the pending Farm Bill legislation is written so that respective states can regulate and oversee agricultural hemp production for themselves, leaving the feds to other matters. That appears similar to the growing marijuana trade—although the feds have not necessarily favored legalization (but Jeff Sessions is no more) they did tip-toe, stating they neither had intent to necessarily go out and enforce their cannabis prohibitions under the Controlled Substances Act nor seek to override states’ legislative acts, a budding truce of sorts.

Regarding the upcoming vote on the Farm Bill, Senator McConnell authored an amendment to bolster passage of the component having to do with hemp cultivation. As the folks at the Ministry of Hemp said, “…our government has been slow in making progress towards hemp legalization.” the Ministry added, “Lawmakers are starting to notice the economic impact that hemp could have in our communities” and that “We just need to allow our farmers to grow the crop.”

Will we have a Farm Bill legalizing hemp in 2018, creating a windfall of homegrown dividends? I’m certain those other hemp-exporting countries hope not. We’ll find out either at the end of this week or shortly thereafter. As I close this article, a statement was made by Sen. McConnell referencing his hemp-made pen and getting the Farm Bill further along.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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