The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation, sale and use of hemp (cannabis) as long as hemp and its derivative products contain 0.3 percent or less of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Farm Bill language reverses decades-old laws regarding cannabis that does not contain enough THC to cause psychoactive symptoms.
Significant changes to hemp laws found in the 2018 Farm Bill include:
- Permits cultivation of hemp for agricultural, commercial and other purposes
- Possession, transportation and sale of hemp is not restricted by the federal government as long as hemp and derivatives are manufactured according to new laws
- Departments of agriculture in all 50 states must develop hemp licensing and regulating plans with their governors and submit those plans to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA must approve of these plans before cultivation and sale of hemp can legally commence
- States that do not create and submit hemp licensing and regulatory plans to the USDA are mandates to develop their own regulatory programs. Hemp growers must then apply for a license and remain in compliance with Farm Bill laws
Definitions of Hemp and THC delta-9
Hemp refers to the Cannabis sativa plant, including its seeds and all extracts and derivatives–cannabinoids, acids, isomers, etc. Certain strains of Cannabis sativa contain over 500 phytochemicals and compounds, with THC delta -9 being the most well-known due to its psychoactive properties. Hemp plants also produce cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive compound with beneficial medicinal qualities.
Cannabis strains containing over 0.3 percent THC delta-9 are bred from hybrid, indica and sativa plants. Alternately, hemp refers to cannabis varieties containing minimal amounts of THC. In other words, smoking or consuming hemp will not produce the “high” that accompanies smoking or consuming THC-rich cannabis.
THC delta-9 (generic name dronabinol) is the psychoactive compound found in marijuana that attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC may cause the following physical and psychological effects:
- Relaxed sedation and/or anxiety
- Distorted sensory perceptions
- Increased heart rate and respiration
- Increased appetite
- Reduced perception of pain
Research has discovered that THC stimulates dopamine pathways in the brain. A powerful neurotransmitter involved in regulating learning, memory, mood, attention and movement, dopamine also plays a role in maintaining heart rhythm, functioning of blood vessels and sleep.
Where Can You Buy Hemp Legally?
Most states allow people over 21 years of age to buy hemp as long as the product contains less than 0.3 THC delta-9. However, a few states like Idaho only allow the sale of hemp that contains no THC delta-9. In states like Idaho, where regulations regarding THC delta-9 are more strict, many choose to buy and sell CBG strains of hemp. CBG is grown to have little to no THC at all.
Kansas hemp laws also permit the sale and use of hemp/CBD that does not contain THC. People with “debilitating” health conditions can purchase CBD containing five percent total THC with approval from their doctor.
In March 2020, South Dakota legalized the sale and use of CBD oil and industrial hemp after a lengthy standoff between its governor and state legislators.
What Laws Govern Dispensary Sales of Hemp?
While the majority of states allow adults over 21 to purchase CBD products at department stores, pharmacies and online stores, owners of dispensaries selling hemp containing over 0.3 THC delta-9 will need to obtain a state-issued license.
Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA has designated hemp as a “commodity crop”. While the USDA is responsible for establishing federal statutes regulating hemp production, it is solely up to each state to develop their own hemp cultivation laws and have them approved by the USDA. In cases where a state fails to enact regulations but permits hemp cultivation, the USDA can grant federalized hemp licenses to entities wishing to grow hemp.
What Does the FDA Say About the Sale of Hemp-based CBD Products?
Any person or company selling CBD products that they claim offers therapeutic benefits is committing an illegal act if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved of that product.
In April 2020, the FDA sent warning letters to businesses that were selling CBD products before these products had been approved by the FDA. Specifically, these businesses were claiming their CBD products could “treat medical conditions and act as an alternative to opioids for people struggling with an opioid addiction”. Businesses failing to respond to such FDA warning letters could result in seizure of products and injunctions.
What is the Possibility of Future Restrictions on Buying and Selling Hemp?
With more states beginning to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana and nearly 60 percent of U.S. citizens currently believing marijuana should be federally legalized, future restrictions on buying and selling hemp are not expected to emerge. In addition, ongoing research into the therapeutic benefits of consuming hemp derivatives for relieving symptoms of serious diseases indicates a high potential for future inclusion of hemp-based pharmaceuticals in lists of FDA-approved medications.
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