Congress May Finally Be Ready to Legalize Hemp

A homegrown hemp renaissance could be just around the corner.



Earlier this week, leaders in Congress announced steps to legalize hemp. A bipartisan bill, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, is set to be introduced next week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell says the bill "will finally legalize…hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from [the] list of controlled substances."

Hemp is the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana. Hemp can't get you high and, unlike tomatoes, has no documented history of turning miraculously into marijuana. But the federal government has long designated hemp as a banned crop.

"Currently regulations consider hemp to be a drug," I wrote in 2013. "The DEA bars farmers from growing hemp without a permit. Not surprisingly, the DEA doesn't issue such permits."

The seeds of the imminent legislative push were planted four years ago, when Congress passed an amendment to the Farm Bill that allows some hemp to be grown for research purposes. The federal government's Drug Enforcement Administration immediately violated the law by seizing a shipment of hemp seeds destined for Kentucky. The state sued the DEA, which was forced to back down.

So what's the problem today?

For one, the DEA continues to drag its heels on complying with other facets of the law. Another is that the 2014 Farm Bill provision I noted at the time is so narrow that only under our idiotic drug war could it be viewed as a step forward. The Farm Bill language granted monopoly growing power to state universities and agriculture departments. No individuals could grow hemp legally. By way of comparison, imagine if Congress passed a law that continued to ban American farmers from growing tomatoes but carved out an exception that allowed state government units to grow tomatoes. That's roughly where we're at with hemp farming in this country today.

Despite the inane domestic prohibitions, hemp products are ubiquitous worldwide. Foods containing hemp are also common. That's increasingly the case here in the United States. In 2013, for example, I reported that Amazon sold nearly 250 different hemp food products. Today, that number stands at nearly 800—an increase of more than 200% in just five years. But little of the hemp foods sold in this country comes from hemp grown in this country. Most of the hemp used in foods and other products sold in the U.S. comes from Canada, China, and Europe.

Growing consumer demand for hemp products mirrors growing acceptance in the states for hemp farming.

In 2013, only nine states had adopted laws regulating hemp production. Several months ago, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that 34 states had passed legislation regulating hemp farming. Despite the federal ban, that number is growing. Earlier this month, Missouri's state senate voted to regulate hemp farming.

States where growing marijuana is legal (though still illegal under federal law) are leading domestic sources of hemp. As of 2106, there were around 400 industrial hemp operations in Colorado. Hemp acreage in Colorado grew from just over 2,000 in 2015 to 9,000 last year.

Besides ending an entirely pointless federal ban and helping to meet consumer demand, legalizing hemp would help ease the way for hemp farmers to do some of the things farmers need the opportunity to do if they want to succeed, including buying crop insurance or opening bank accounts, both of which the current federal ban can make difficult or impossible.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will be co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"I fully support the cultivation of industrial hemp," Sen. Paul told me by email this week. "Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost Kentucky's economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agriculture industry."

In a 2016 column on food policy and the presidential election, I listed hemp deregulation as one of the most important issues.

"Deregulate the cultivation of hemp so that growing hemp is regulated the same as growing other non-psychoactive foods like tomatoes, carrots, and kale," I wrote. That possibility seems far more plausible—and inevitable—than it has at any point in my lifetime.

NEXT: Will Stephon Clark's Killing by Police Finally Force Open California Misconduct Investigations?

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  1. I can’t wait to see what forces align to kill this legislation.

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  2. Of course, raising hemp should not be illegal. Although, contemporary Libertarianism pays WAY too much attention to legalizing drugs and not nearly enough attention to the US government spying on it’s own citizens and the erosion of property rights, etc. Being able to get stoned legally seems like a pretty insignificant issue concerning all that’s amiss in this nation.

    1. Well, if that is your particular bailiwick, then legalizing drugs is a helpful step – since one of the primary justifications for intrusions of the state into our privacy is the enforcement of drug laws. At the state and local level it is probably the number one motivator. At the Federal level it has been eclipsed by the /war on Terror, but they still love them some drug enforcing.

      Of course those interested in getting more power to intrude into and wreck people’s lives are not standing idly by as the drug war is under threat. Now we have a new scourge in the form of guns… so maybe they can ban a few types of weapons altogether. That’ll help them keep expanding the surveillance state.

      1. Why do you care so much about gun rights, when taxation is out of control?

        1. Focusing so much on taxation completely misses the problem of government spending.

          1. How can you talk agout government spending when we’re trying to solve climate change?

            1. The need for better solvents is obvious. How else do you get things in solution?

              1. Why are you talking about chemicals, in the middle of an obesity epidemic?

    2. One thing we’ve learned about Reason “libertarians” over the last year plus is that their true feelings about domestic surveillance vary rather considerably depending on exactly who is doing the surveilling and who is being targeted.

      But pot, gay butt sex, and the continuation of the Mestizo tidal wave are absolutely non-negotiable here under any circumstances, regardless of who is in the Oval Office.

      1. If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends. Make it last forever. Friendship never ends. If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give. Taking’s just too easy; that’s the way it is.

      2. How can you care so much about surveillance, when cops are killing innocent people for no good reason?

        1. We need to oppose a salt weapon.

  3. Well, I guess hemp is okay, but I still think we should ban semi-autonomous assault weapons just to be safe.

    1. Well, yes, OK, but what about bump stocks, and how do they relate?

      If you harvest a bumper crop of hemp, and you are SOOO excited about it, and you start humping your hemp…

      But then if Jeff Sessions and fellow straight-laced mo-foes get all offended about it, and lose their tempers… And start thumping their regulations handbooks… If, as many libertarians do, you accept the premise that regulations are a total “flop”, then Jeff Sessions (and minions) aren’t just regulations-thumpers (like Bible-thumpers), they are FLOP-thumpers. AND grumping about it all… AND perhaps, even, getting the DEA out there with their guns, in the hemp fields, with guns with bumper stocks? You know, the Government Almighty ALWAYS exempts itself from ALL the laws? Then, the “Hatfields v/s the McCoys” will have been NOTHING, I tell ya! We are looking at a battle of the hemp-bumper-crop humpers v/s the hemp-bumper-crop humper stoppers, temper flop-thumper-grumpers & their bumper stocks!

      1. In all seriousness, I was never in the military. What I know about the following is mostly from what I’ve read.

        . . . but my understanding is that full auto–even in the military–is generally reserved for covering fire. Somebody tell me if I’ve got that right.

        My understanding is that they use short burst a lot, but the kind of fire they’re trying to ban by banning bump stocks is something that the military may teach soldiers to avoid with small arms (except as covering fire) because for all the ammunition you’re using, you’re not likely to do much damage to the enemy that way.

        Once again, I’m not claiming any expertise on the topic. I’m hoping someone will correct me if I’m getting this wrong, and people can’t tell me where my thinking is off if they don’t know what I’m thinking. But if the military thinks that tactic is ineffective in a battlefield situation, why are we trying to ban it? Do we want to improve mass shooters’ effectiveness? God forbid they stop using AR-15s and start learning how to speed load a shotgun.

        The other issue here is . . . call it forbidden fruit or Streisand Syndrome, whatever. There’s about a million guys out there who never knew they wanted a bump stock until the government tried to ban it. Now it’s an issue, and 15 years from now, when the bump stock ban is gone, no new AR-15 buyer will think his rifle is complete without one.

        Our overlords are dummies.

        1. “Our overlords are dummies.”

          Agreed… What I find absurd about the bumper-stock ban is how simple it would be to make one for yourself. Buy a whoopee cushion for what, $5, slap a hose clamp on the whoopee cushion outlet, and duct tape the damned thing to your gun stock. You are off to the races, baby…

          Cut off the duct tape when you are done, so you can’t get busted afterwards. You MIGHT want to wear a clown suit, to give yourself an excuse to carry a whoopee cushion… Far better, just EAT the whoopee cushion after using it, to eliminate the evidence! Clown suits are just BEGGING for trouble… “Clown Lives Matter” movement never did gain traction…

          1. It takes a big man to fill the shoes of Clown Lives Matter.

        2. Even in covering fire, semi-automatic is generally the setting we used. Burst was for use against area targets or for close in engagements.

          1. Which is exactly the sort of target a domestic terrorist might choose to use an assault weapon with a bump stock against. A large crowd where you don’t particularly care who you shoot is kind of tailor made for a terrorist with a bump stock. Mr. Hotel Window might have done even more damage if he had just waded into the crowd with a couple of ARs and some high capacity magazines taped together.

            So I suppose the focus is kinda justified, from that point of view. The only use for bump stocks seems to be having a blast at the range with the guys and shooting crowds. Pretty crappy for home defense or in tactical situations.

            15 guys (a-la 9/11) with bump stocks and plenty of ammo and no particular desire to survive could do a lot of damage at a college football game – or futbol in a European premier league. Luckily the people who have a terrorist mindset have mostly been kinda stupid so far. There’s plenty of ways to do even worse with less, if you were so inclined. I’m quite certain that you could find a team on HnR that would have the intellect, creativity and training to cripple a major city on a budget of less than a million bucks. So banning one particular method might just inspire creativity, resulting in a worse outcome.

            Who knows?

            1. In the end, one guy with a couple semiautomatic pistols in a crowded area is about as dangerous as someone with any other kind of gun with any accessory. Cho Sung Hoi broke the mass shooting record with common pistols.

              So the next logical step will be to ban everything but six shooters and muskets.

              1. That sounds like the agenda! Sadly, the bastards that think the second amendment was for muskets are willfully ignorant!

        3. You’re correct. Auto fire from a hand held weapon like an M4 is a waste of the limited ammo you can carry on your person and also increases the odds of a weapons jam. Full auto fire is like jerking off in the shower. It’s a lot of fun, but not what you’re in there for.

  4. But little of the hemp foods sold in this country comes from hemp grown in this country. Most of the hemp used in foods and other products sold in the U.S. comes from Canada, China, and Europe.

    A hemp trade deficit! Come on, Trump, raise those tariffs! MAHA!

    1. Nah! MAHBCHA = Make Americans Hemp-Bumper-Crop Humpers Again!

  5. OT: Suffolk County district judge apologizes, admits he’s serial underwear stealer

    A Long Island judge who police say repeatedly broke into his neighbor’s home to steal her underwear has confessed to snatching panties on multiple occasions, even though he has pleaded not guilty.

    In his confession, he said he stole the underwear upon feeling “urges.” He admitted that on several occasions, he entered the home, opened her hamper and took underwear.

    1. Cicarle was taken into custody after an incident that happened around 9 a.m. Thursday, when the young woman was alone. Prosecutors said she was sleeping but woke up when she heard the door open. She called out, “Hello?” and that’s when she saw Cicale at the doorway.

      Authorities say he turned around and ran away, and the victim closed and locked the door and called her mother, who called 911. Responding officers say they saw Cicale walking up to a different house and pretending to knock on the door.

      They approached him because he matched the description of the person the victim described. They reportedly found several pairs of soiled women’s underwear on him, which the victim identified as her own.

      1. OK, but were they incredible, edible undies??!? Inquiring minds want to know!

        Also, THIS is why your soiled undies belong in a strong, locked box! ESPECIALLY if the undies are fully semi-automated, have bump stocks, or have scary-looking pistol grips! (I like mine with bump stocks!)

        1. “Keep your ding-dong a-knockin’,
          And her thing-thongs a-rocking,
          With bump-her stockings!”

          …sounds like a catchy advertising jingle to me!

      2. Ok, two thoughts:

        1.) that guy has issues….

        2.) What the heck do you have in your newsfeed search parameters?

        1. 2.) What the heck do you have in your newsfeed search parameters?

          Soiled women’s underwear obvi

    2. snatching panties

      Nice band name.

    3. Step 1– Steal Underwear

      Step 2– ???????

      Step 3– Profit!

      1. Yeah…. you don’t wanna know about step 2.

  6. OT:
    Regulate the crap out of an industry until all the smaller suppliers strangle and sell to the major players, and then gripe when they raise prices:

    “California attorney general sues Sutter Health, alleging unlawful price rises”
    “The state alleges that Sutter violated California antitrust laws by forcing health insurers to enter into agreements that gave Sutter the power to raise prices for hospital and health care services “that far exceed the prices it would have been able to charge in an unconstrained, competitive market.”

    1. Well, the ONLY solution, after Government Almighty has forced XYZ industry to aggregate into a monopoly, and the monopoly then raises prices…

      Must be for the Government Almighty to declare itself to be the “single payer”, and give us everything for FREE!!!! Party time!!!!

    2. I have yet to see the first article decrying the transparent disingenuousness of Zuckerberg stating that he would welcome government regulation of Facebook. How convenient. I’ll enjoy the Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, or Don Boudreaux essay on the matter someday. Until then: ARGH!

    3. If you want the prices you’d get from an unconstrained competitive market, why not just have an unconstrained competitive market?

      I expect I’ll get a Nobel prize for that realization?

  7. As of 2106, there were around 400 industrial hemp operations in Colorado.

    It’s nice to know that we’ll have a lot of industrial hemp operations 88 years from now. But the really cool part is that we have a time traveler to tell us about it.

  8. Finally – something that death-penalty states will be able to buy on the open market!

    1. Nice. But it’ll be illegal to boil it.

  9. One of Tesla’s semi-autonomous cars went off and semi-autonomously killed its driver.


    A lot of people may have problems, psychologically, dealing with when they’re sometimes autonomous and when they’re not. It’s like reading a couple pages in a book and suddenly realizing you don’t remember any of it, or, sometimes, people drive all the way to work and don’t remember much about how they got there. I bet everybody doesn’t slip in and out of those states of awareness with ease.

    1. his Tesla collided with a highway barrier

      Maybe the highway barrier suddenly and unexpectedly jumped out into the middle of the street in front of the vehicle. Yeah, yeah, that’s it, that’s the ticket!

    2. Calling it “semi-autonomous” is sorta like hoping the co-pilot will notice when you’ve fallen asleep.
      Sorry, Tesla, you don’t get to hide behind the “semi”; either it is or it isn’t. Your customers (and the taxpayers who are subsidizing them) aren’t the QC dept. for your sofware.

    3. IIRC, in that instance, the driver ignored several warnings to get back in touch with the steering wheel, and had not touched the steering wheel for 5-6 seconds. Tesla has their issues, but this sounds like pure driver screwup.

    4. Tesla’s stock falling to current levels might be causing them trouble, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Their market cap had them valued higher than GM, Ford, Chrystler.. that’s just nuts. GM probably makes more on its parts business than Tesla could possibly make if they sold out all of their theoretical production for the next decade. Let alone the fact that they are having such trouble meeting their production goals.

      I suppose investors are looking at their battery business and their collaborations with other automakers and other industries, not just at their car business. Because if we are just talking cars, I don’t see how their stock doesn’t drop another 50%.

      They have a huge upside…. but let’s get real. GM sells more in a month than Tesla hopes to sell in a year.

      1. I’m pretty sure that Tesla’s market cap is based on the assumption that Musk can continue to pick the pockets of the taxpayers.
        Put simply, those who are betting on Tesla are betting he can keep a gun pointed at the taxpayer’s head and thereby make money.

  10. Kentucky has been talking about this for at least 30 years. No progress.

  11. Arriving in a flying car powered by fusion.

      1. I followed link to link to link and ended up here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion

        Wiki rains on your parade pretty badly. But good luck!!! Working thermonuclear fusion (or ANY other controlled fusion) would be WAY COOL as far as I can tell!!!

        The nay-sayers say that “Controlled fusion is a 20-years-from-now thingee… And and always will be!”

        I hope that they are wrong! Good luck to all the fusion researchers though, for sure!!!

  12. Hemp Renaissance- hempissance

  13. Isn’t hemp what those drug-addled liberal abortionists like George Washington and Patrick Henry used as the gateway paper for the Bill of Rights? Ban it! Declare a death sentence for hemp kingpins and confiscate their homes and bank accounts through asset forfeiture for the militarized First Responder? Paid Vacation Fund. That’ll teach them some respect for THE law!

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