U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have cosponsored the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, a bipartisan bill that would legalize and clearly define hemp as an agricultural commodity, removing it from the list of controlled substances. Currently, hemp falls under the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act and, while it is cultivated for research purposes in Virginia, the agriculture industry cannot currently grow it for commercial use. Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care.
“The American agricultural industry should not be held back by outdated restrictions on hemp production that prevent us from creating more jobs and growing our economy,” Warner said. “Hemp products are already bought, sold, and consumed right here in the United States. This bipartisan bill will help Virginia farmers, manufacturers and small businesses benefit from the economic growth we have seen in this industry.”
“Agriculture is Virginia’s leading economic sector, and I am always on the lookout for ways to support our agricultural economy,” Kaine said. “Hemp was grown in Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, and research and input from Virginia agricultural stakeholders, agricultural scientists at JMU and Virginia Tech, and economic development leaders like the Tobacco Commission have shown that it is safe and holds economic promise for rural Virginia. I’m satisfied that this bill takes sensible steps to address law enforcement concerns and, in turn, that it makes sense to remove industrial hemp from the federal controlled substance list.”
The legislation will also give states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp; allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance. The legislation also addresses law enforcement concerns about hemp’s similarity to marijuana by requiring states to submit hemp growth and production plans for USDA approval. The 2014 farm bill authorized industrial hemp to be made available for agricultural research purposes. Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University have been active in hemp research in recent years.
View full text of the bill, here.