Fate of Industrial Hemp Measure is Up in the Air Without a Farm Bill

There are so many reasons why the House Republicans need to end their obstructionism and pass the Senate Farm Bill, but here’s one that should inspire them to do their jobs: by 2022 the industrial hemp industry should be worth about $3 billion a year, and that means a new revenue stream for Washington.

Held hostage by House GOP lawmakers, the Senate Farm Bill would legalize industrial hemp used to produce food, clothing, building materials, health and beauty products, dietary supplements, and in what could become the biggest growth area, medicine.

The key ingredient in hemp is cannabidiol, or CBD, which is legal in more than half the states but is illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug. It’s been illegal for nearly 50 years because of some very ignorant federal lawmakers who refused to do their homework.

Just to be clear, hemp isn’t pot, and it doesn’t get you high. It’s a plant that can create a lot of jobs and give Family Farmers an alternative cash crop at a time when they are being left behind by the Trump Trade War and historically low commodities prices.

Admittedly, a lot of cannabis industry business owners and investment advisors have been celebrating a bit prematurely. One West Coast hemp CBD distributor we spoke to bragged of deep ties to pro-hemp Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and was almost arrogant in his confidence that industrial hemp legalization was a slam-dunk. We politely suggested he not pop the cork on the champagne until there is actually something to celebrate.

Seasoned and thoughtful businesses, however, like Dr. Bronner’s have been cautiously optimistic that it can at least see light at the end of the tunnel on hemp legalization, but it has smartly not reduced its steady lobbying and educational campaign. It’s kept the pressure on to win final passage. That’s the difference between a longstanding established and experienced company like Dr. Bronner’s and the cannabis startups ignorant to the reality of how hard it is to navigate Washington in order to take a commodity like industrial hemp from the black market to the open market.

The cannabis trade press also has been overly giddy about the McConnell industrial hemp measure, but in many ways that’s another dose of the irrational exuberance that permeates the marijuana media (which for more than two years has wrongly predicted everything from Congress allowing banks to accept industry money without fear of federal reprisal, to lawmakers outright legalizing the plant. Those things will happen, but not on the guesswork timetables that have come and gone).

Most of the reporting on the industrial hemp measure has been shallow and reliant on the word of a fledgling and mostly ineffective cannabis lobby in Washington. One example is the scant reporting on how McConnell really needed to attach the hemp measure to another piece of legislation (like its present home in the Farm Bill) because he doesn’t have enough Republican votes necessary to pass the measure as a stand-alone bill.

Another story line missed (or ignored) by the industry press is whether the House would even agree to the Senate hemp measure in a still-to-be-written final version of the Farm Bill. The trade press ignores that House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) could even kill the McConnell hemp measure in the House in the dark of night. No lawmaker in America has done more to block any kind of cannabis legislation than Sessions, a prohibitionist whose wit doesn’t measure up to his powerful job of deciding what makes it to the House floor for a vote, and what doesn’t.

We don’t mean to pick on the cannabis media. It provides an important window into a legalization movement almost wholly ignored by the mainstream media. It’s just that willing legislation to pass by simply saying it will is not the same thing as confirming legislation will pass with authoritative sourcing. It’s Ouija board journalism.

We’re confident that Family Farmers will eventually get a chance to plant and harvest the cash crop, but then they face two more hurdles they will face forever: surviving a new federal regulatory system that will make a lot of lawyers rich in order to abide by the rules; and factory farms owned by Big Ag that put profits over Family Farmers. When the time comes, we’ll fight those fights for Family Farmers.

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