Action Keeps Hemp Farming Act Alive

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The 11th hour email deluge that helped preserve the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, is just the beginning of what will be a vigorous fight. As Bette Davis famously said in movie classic All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

On the eve of the bill going before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced an amendment seeking to redefine hemp to exclude “derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, from Cannabis Sativa L.“

The hemp and CBD community is not standing by idly, nor should retailers. As soon as Grassley made his move, emails calling for action poured in from all fronts. The U.S. Hemp Roundtable set up a site at hempsupporter.com/resources/ making it easy to contact your senators by email, and we encourage you to do so.

While the bill passed through committee without Grassley’s amendment coming up, he says he wants to continue the discussion. The vote was 20-1 with the Iowa senator casting the lone vote in opposition. In a victory for the industry, the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018 introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it through the initial bill intact. Many hurdles remain.

McConnell gave an impassioned pitch for the bill to the committee. Kentucky has been part of a research effort for years and is looking to replace tobacco crops with hemp. Market demand is also there.

“I know there are farming communities all over the country who are interested in this,” McConnell said. “Younger farmers in my state are particularly interested in going in this direction. We have a lot of people in my state who are extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities. As we all know, hemp is very diversified … It’s time to figure out and see where this market will take us.”

We fully support this sentiment.

Still, there may be other obstacles in the making. During The Big Natural conference in Las Vegas, and again on Tuesday at the ACI/CRN Forum on Dietary Supplements, Robert Durkin, deputy director of FDA’s Office of Dietary Supplement Programs, said the FDA still holds the position that CBD is excluded from the definition of dietary supplement under federal law.

Lack of enforcement comes down to resources. If every staffer (and there aren’t many) turned to chasing companies with CBD-related products, just like “whack-a-mole,” new ones would pop up, Durkin said. Meanwhile, states continue to legalize it.

Also at stake in this Farm Bill is a provision that would allow recipients of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) to use their benefits to purchase a multivitamin. During their Day on the Hill, industry representatives convened by the Council for Responsible Nutrition and American Herbal Products Association, made the pitch for passage. (Ironically, it was the same day as the Senate Agriculture Committee meeting.)

Expect many twists and turns on the road to a final passage and in this unusual political climate, well, anything could happen.

We vow to stay on top of all these developments as they unfold and to make you aware of opportunities to participate — both through our social media and our website. Are your seatbelts on?

Laurie Petersen
Editor-in-Chief

A version of this editorial appears in the July issue of WholeFoods Magazine with the headline: If Today Is Thursday, Could There Be a Farm Bill?

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