By Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press
(AP) — Hemp is about to get the nod from the federal government that marijuana, its cannabis plant cousin, craves.
A provision of the farm bill that received final approval in Congress on Wednesday removes hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like any other agricultural crop. THC is the cannabis compound that gives pot its high.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law next week.
The change sets the stage for greater expansion in an industry already seeing explosive growth because of growing demand for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp that many see as a way to better health.
Federal legalization could triple the overall hemp market to $2.5 billion by 2022, with $1.3 billion of those sales from hemp-derived CBD products, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm.
“It’s a huge deal because it’s a domino effect. Banks can get involved now and if banks get involved, then credit card processors get involved — and if that happens, then big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart get into it,” said Sean Murphy, a New Frontier data analyst who’s tracked the industry since its infancy in 2015. “All these big players are going to come in.”
Hemp farmers will be able to buy crop insurance, apply for loans and grants, and write off their business expenses on their taxes like any other farmer.
And those who sell dried flower or CBD-infused products made from hemp can now ship across state lines without fear of prosecution as long as they are careful not to run afoul of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The new bill retains the FDA’s authority over products that contain CBD. Individual states can also make and enforce rules banning hemp or CBD even though it’s no longer considered a controlled substance.
Donald Rex Bishop/Green Heffa Farms, Inc. via AP