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When did it happen?

On December 20, 2018, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which is more commonly known as the "2018 Farm Bill," became law. The bill represents a drastic transformation in federal hemp policy. The legalization, however, comes with several regulatory restrictions, and federal and state barriers to the growth of hemp and the sale of hemp products have not completely disappeared.

What's the deference between Hemp and Marijuana?

The distinction between hemp, marijuana and cannabis is unclear to many, and the terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Cannabis is a family of plants. Hemp and marijuana are two different species of plants within that family. They have similar appearances, but when compared side by side, each can clearly be identified by differences in the breadth of their leaves. More importantly, hemp and marijuana differ in their concentration of THC, the chemical compound that induces psychoactive effects or, in other words, gets the user high. The THC concentration in marijuana exceeds 15 percent, enough to create a psychoactive effect, whereas the THC levels in hemp of 0.3 percent or less are too low to create an effect. Outside of the United States, hemp has been cultivated for a variety of industrial purposes and, increasingly, to produce cannabidiol (CBD), a natural health and wellness product marketed and sold as a nutritional supplement. In the United States, however, the Controlled Substances Act classified all forms of cannabis as marijuana. Furthermore, marijuana and THC in any concentration were both listed as Schedule I controlled substances, thereby making hemp illegal. With some exceptions for clothing, industrial materials and products made from the plant's stalks or sterilized seeds, hemp could not be grown, so even legal products had to be manufactured from imported hemp.

Tell us more about the 2014 Farm Bill.

With the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress took a small step toward changing hemp policy. First, it clarified that notwithstanding the Controlled Substances Act or any other federal law, an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture may grow or cultivate "industrial hemp" as part of an agricultural pilot program, provided that the growth and cultivation is allowed under the laws of the state in which the program is located. Second, the 2014 Farm Bill drew a distinction between hemp and marijuana by defining industrial hemp as "the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any such part of such plant … with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent …" Because the primary goal of the 2014 Farm Bill was to generate hemp research and protect its cultivation, the law did not expressly address the processing of hemp or the manufacture, distribution and sale of products made from hemp. Further, the 2014 Farm Bill did not modify the Controlled Substances Act to exclude from Schedule I either hemp or products containing THC derived from hemp. This led to confusion about the legality of industrial hemp products under federal law. In fact, if it weren’t for annual appropriations bills that barred the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from using federal funds in contravention of the 2014 Farm Bill, the threat of federal criminal charges might have prevented manufacturers from distributing hemp-derived CBD products and pharmacies and other retailers from selling them.

Why the need for the 2018 Farm Bill?

The 2018 Farm Bill fills in the gaps left by the 2014 Farm Bill and clarifies that hemp and hemp products are legal. Passed by a wide bipartisan majority (386-47 in the House and 87-13 in the Senate), the legislation is a gargantuan 641-page document in which just a few provisions concerning hemp are buried among many others that address farm subsidies, food stamps, crop exports, conservation practices, crop insurance, rural development, animal health, specialty and organic crops, and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

While the hemp provisions may be short, they are nonetheless mighty.

Section 12619 of the 2018 Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act in two ways:

  1. It removes hemp from the definition of marijuana in section 102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 802(16).

  2. In listing THC as a Schedule I controlled substance in section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 812(c), it creates an exception for tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.

Section 10113 of the 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp more broadly than the 2014 Farm Bill defined "industrial hemp" thus eliminating any question that both the plants and products derived from the plants are legal, so long as the THC concentration does not exceed 0.3 percent. In that regard, section 10113 provides that "the term 'hemp' means 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 concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis." Any cannabis plant or product that contains more than 0.3 percent THC will still be considered marijuana under federal law.

The newly enacted legislation does not mean that hemp will immediately become a cash crop or that farmers can grow it as freely as they do corn, soybeans, wheat or tobacco. Before hemp can be grown outside of a pilot program conducted by an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture, the state in which it is grown must first create – and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must approve – a plan under which the state will monitor and regulate production.

Now it's up to the States.

Each state regulatory plan must include a practice for maintaining information regarding the land where hemp is grown, a procedure for testing THC concentration, a procedure for disposing of plants and products produced in violation of the law, and a procedure for ensuring that the state will take appropriate actions for violations of federal hemp laws. In states that do not devise their own regulatory programs, the USDA will create a federal licensing scheme. One year after the USDA creates its plan, the provision of the 2014 Farm Bill that authorized pilot programs for industrial hemp will be repealed so that all hemp will be grown under the auspices of a state or federal regulatory scheme.

What obstacles and challenges remain?
The 2018 Farm Bill does not remove all barriers to the production and sale of CBD products made from hemp. On the same day that the law became effective, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement as a reminder that it continues to have the authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and that it will treat those products as it does any other FDA-regulated product. In the statement, the FDA expressed its concern over the number of CBD products that are marketed with claims of therapeutic benefit without having been approved by the FDA. Cannabis and cannabis-derived products that will be promoted for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of diseases (such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, psychiatric disorders and diabetes) are considered new drugs and must go through the FDA drug approval process before they are marketed. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims violates the Foods, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

The FDA has also cautioned that marketing hemp-derived CBD or THC products as or in dietary supplements is unlawful because both CBD and THC are active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs and were the subject of clinical investigations before they were marketed as foods or dietary supplements. The FDA tempers that warning by noting that it is only likely to initiate an enforcement action if CBD products are marketed with therapeutic claims or if they pose a threat to public health. Further, the FDA is taking steps to evaluate whether it will issue a regulation allowing the use of hemp-derived CBD or THC in dietary supplements.

As with any other product, manufacturers, distributors and sellers of hemp products still must comply with state controlled substance laws. Some states simply incorporate federal controlled substance schedules by reference, but most have their own schedules, which do not automatically change when federal law changes. In those states, businesses that buy or sell hemp will have to carefully review whether marijuana is listed as a controlled substance, whether the definition of marijuana excludes hemp and whether THC is listed as a controlled substance.

Such businesses must also determine whether states 1) allow hemp cultivation but prohibit products manufactured from hemp, 2) allow only non-ingestible hemp products, 3) permit hemp products only when used for medicinal purposes, 4) restrict hemp products shipped from outside the state, 5) require hemp products to be registered, or 6) require manufacturers, distributors or retailers of hemp products to be licensed. Lastly, in states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational or medicinal purposes, businesses buying or selling hemp must determine whether hemp products are subject to the same regulatory scheme as marijuana.

The "SKINNY" on PA.

2015-2016 Senate Bill 50 – also called the Pennsylvania Hemp Bill

An Act amending Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for industrial hemp research; imposing powers and duties on the Department of Agriculture and the Legislative Reference Bureau; imposing criminal and civil penalties; abrogating a regulation; and making a related repeal.

Although hemp may be a variant of the cannabis plant, it has only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that makes cannabis and marijuana use and consumption illegal by most mandates. Despite its uses and low chance of negative side effects, hemp is still under strict federal regulations that have made its cultivation illegal in the United States since the Nixon Administration. Only in recent years – and in no small thanks to organizations like Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC) and legal professionals like Attorney Andrew Sacks – has some leniency been granted.

U.S. Drug Policy Regarding Hemp Use and Cultivation

Currently, hemp is considered a Schedule I controlled substance due to federal mandates. Its production is overseen by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prevent any abuse or misuse of the substance. Even Pennsylvania’s pilot program began with harsh restrictions and only recently granted hemp cultivators up to 100 acres each to grow plants. Pennsylvania also initially prohibited hemp cannabidiol research and blocked hemp products from being sold in medical marijuana dispensaries, largely due to fictional reasons that label hemp as an illegal substance; Governor Tom Wolf played an integral part in permitting researchers access to the plant.


Is CBD Legal in Pennsylvania?

CBD hemp oil is federally legal, per the 2014 Farm Bill and can be purchased and used by individuals in the state. CBD cannabis oil, which is derived from marijuana and hemp, is only legal for qualified patients and can only be obtained with a doctor's recommendation.

Is it Legal to Grow CBD?

Yes, an unlimited amount of hemp can be grown in Pennsylvania. Over 30 states have pilot programs including Pennsylvania.

You can review Regular Session 2015-2016 Senate Bill 50 – also called the Pennsylvania Hemp Bill – by clicking here and visiting the Pennsylvania General Assembly site. You can click here to review House Bill 967 – or the Pennsylvania Hemp House Bill.

Federal Law of 2018 Farm Bill ... legalizing hemp in the United States as an agricultural commodity.

According to the bill, industrial hemp is any part of the cannabis Sativa L. plant that possesses a maximum of 0.3 percent THC by weight. Extracts such as CBD and other cannabinoids are considered hemp, meaning they are no longer a controlled substance under federal law. The Farm Bill presents a framework for hemp cultivation and distribution/sales in this country. State and local governments are given the power to regulate hemp production. If they decline, then the U.S. Department of Agriculture will regulate it. Additionally, private growers are allowed to produce hemp and hemp-related products without any interference from the federal authorities. Prior to the bill, these growers were required to obtain a license. Current hemp licenses and registrations under the 2014 Farm Bill will expire when 2019 ends. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission oversees hemp products made and marketed for use or consumption. Hemp imports and exports will be subject to the jurisdiction of Customs and Border Patrol.

Nonmedicinal Uses of Hemp and Medical Marijuana

Even the United States government acknowledged the potential use of hemp when it permitted 14 states to grow the plant. The objective was to control the cultivation and determine if there was commercial viability in hemp. Due to research, studies, and programs, we now know that hemp has more than 25,000 nonmedicinal uses.

Some of the most common nonmedicinal products made from hemp are:

  • Animal feed

  • Clothing material

  • Cordage and ropes

  • Fuel

  • Soil purification products

  • Composite materials

The results of these studies and the existence of these products align with what many other countries around the world already know: hemp is not dangerous and has a viable commercial purpose.

CBD Extraction and Medicinal Uses of Hemp &Medical Marijuana

The general consensus is that if a substance is not dangerous and can be useful, it should not be strictly outlawed. Hemp, for instance, does have its uses and does not show the potential to intoxicate or debilitate its users. Like medical marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD) in hemp may be reduced and refined for consumption or otherwise medicinally used. All of the illnesses and health conditions that medical marijuana can alleviate, medical hemp can as well. Furthermore, due to the fact that hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, it cannot be used recreationally, making it even more ideal for a wide range of medicinal and nonmedicinal uses.

Important facts about cannabidiol (CBD):

  • CBD originates in the cannabis Sativa L. plant.

  • Agricultural hemp looks similar to bamboo and is grown differently than THC-containing cannabis.

  • When pollinated, hemp does not have great potential to produce high-content THC.

  • Agricultural hemp plants are intentionally pollinated by members of their own crop in order to keep THC levels low

Common Q&A

Can smoking hemp get you high?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the substance in marijuana and cannabis that produces euphoric or psychotropic effects. Hemp has a THC content level so minimal that it is impossible to smoke it to get high.

Will eating hemp seeds get you high?

A common misconception is that eating hemp seeds introduces more THC into your system. This is false; there is no reason to believe that eating hemp will produce marijuana-like side-effects.

Does hemp have high cannabidiol (CBD) content?

CBD is believed to be able to treat multiple medical conditions, including tremors, mental disorders and stress, and possibly staving off cancer cell growth. Hemp is naturally high in CBD, as is its counterpart, marijuana.

Is hemp illegal everywhere?

No; in fact, hemp is regularly cultivated in countries all around the world. Useful end products of hemp are frequently imported to the States, where they are often procured through illegal internet sales.

What other uses for hemp are there?

It is estimated that there are close to 20,000 uses for hemp and hemp byproducts. Some of the more popular uses are creating medicinal tinctures, manufacturing durable material and fabrics, and providing a stable food source for livestock.

Can hemp be used as fuel?

You might have heard about hemp being used as a renewable and clean fuel source. By either using the hempseed as pressed biodiesel or using the stalks to create ethanol, hemp is showing genuine potential to become a fossil fuel alternative.

Where can I learn more?

Even as hemp regulations are reviewed all across the country, the legislation surrounding it is still clouded with complications and red tape. If you are growing, producing, dispensing, or otherwise involved in the use of medical cannabis or hemp, you can rely on NORTHRIDGE Hemp News for the answers. Follow our pages in be an conformed reader. Subscription will always be FREE.

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