The US House has easily passed the farm bill, a massive legislative package that reauthorizes agriculture programs and food aid. The legislation has already passed the Senate and is now headed to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.
While the federal government aims to pass a new farm bill every year, the latest version is unique: It contains a provision that would legalize hemp and regulate it under the US Department of Agriculture, much like any other crop.
The bill also reauthorizes agriculture and conservation programs, funds trade programs, and expands support for struggling dairy farmers. Wednesday’s House vote was a decisive 369-47.
The legality of CBD, however, remains hazy.
The provision involving industrial hemp—defined by law as cannabis plants containing no more than 0.3% THC by weight—allows US farmers to grow, process, and sell the plant and its products. The provision was championed in part by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican whose home state of Kentucky has long history of hemp production that’s recently flourished under a federally approved pilot program in place since 2014.
If the bill becomes law, as it’s widely expected to, the change will almost certainly spur a flurry of activity around cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant, including low-THC hemp. Though hemp is commonly grown for its nutritious seeds and fibrous stalks, it’s also a key source of CBD—a fact that has made sparked greater commercial interest in the plant during recent years.
The legality of CBD, however, remains hazy. While products that contain CBD are now available in many mainstream stores and online, the US Drug Enforcement Administration continues to view CBD extracts as Schedule I controlled substances. While the US Food and Drug Administration in June granted approval to Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived CBD oil, the DEA responded by rescheduling only Epidiolex—not CBD itself.
The farm bill’s allowance for the processing of hemp will likely force greater clarity on the issue as more companies rush to capitalize on the booming CBD market and hemp’s newly legal status.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.