Green chart about hemp facts

An amazing thing happened in Washington DC. No, it didn’t involve the President, or at least not yet. But it did come from the Republican camp. Congress’ most powerful politician – Washington’s red light,  green light – is championing the “Hemp Farming Act of 2018.”

This groundbreaking legislation would redefine hemp as an agricultural commodity, regulate it under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and drop it from the list of tightly Controlled Schedule I Substances. Water rights, federal grants and banking accompany this bill. Yes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is leading the pack, and because of him, the Act has a good chance of passing. Once signed by the President, hemp will emerge from 80 years of prohibition darkness and move into the light as a recognized crop like soybeans or corn.

Hemp’s first venture into daylight occurred with passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 or 2014 Farm Bill for short. This legislation permits hemp cultivation by either an institution of higher learning or state-sponsored agriculture pilot program under the auspices of research. By passing enabling legislation, fighting the DEA for seeds and starting the first pilot program, the nation’s quintessential hemp state, Kentucky, led the way. Four years later, when introducing the Hemp Farming Act, Senator McConnell cited the success of the program.

The Senate version of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka, 2018 Farm Bill), a mandated five-year re-up of the 2014 Farm Bill, contains an amendment mirroring McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act.  

For farmers and aficionados, the implications of hemp’s arrival can be measured in dollars. A study by the Hemp Business Journal estimates total hemp-based product sales in the U.S. at $820 million for 2017. This number includes food, textiles, car parts, construction materials and CBD, which owns the largest share. 

It may be counterintuitive to think that one plant, Cannabis, can be the source of so many seemingly unrelated products. It can.

Hemp and marijuana are related cousins in the same way that Great Danes and Chihuahuas are related dogs. Cannabinoids – the chemically active molecules in marijuana – are generally derived from the flowers of the Cannabis plant; hemp comes from the stalk, fiber and seeds. To qualify as Industrial Hemp, the plant product’s THC content (the cannabinoid responsible for the high) must be less than 0.3% by dry weight. The 2018 Farm Bill employs that definition, while also including a “whole plant” extracts provision that is important to CBD.

A cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) is where hemp and marijuana cross into common medicinal ground. CBD can relieve pain, reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure and more, all without the THC high. In fact, CBD significantly reduces seizures in children with intractable epilepsy as documented by Epidiolex, an oral cannabidiol solution from GW Pharmaceuticals that recently received FDA-approval. 

CBD has become a political football. Legal here, arrestable there. A woman driving through Wyoming with CBD oil was arrested, charged with a felony and faces five years in prison. Via Fedex, UPS and USPS, the DEA has been intercepting, seizing and destroying hemp shipments used to make hemp products.

In theory, oils made from hemp produced under the 2014 Farm Bill or imported from Europe that meet the less than 0.3 percent THC standard are “legal.” If the 2018 Farm Bill passes as is, hemp along with CBD will indeed be legal in all 50 states, since the bill removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

Where does Ohio fit? It doesn’t. According to Vote Hemp, 40 states have defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and have removed barriers to its production. Ohio isn’t among them.

Hemp legislation has yet to be introduced into the Ohio General Assembly. This, even though among all states Ohio ranks 7th in the number farms (76,000), 3rd in manufacturing GDP, 4th in the size of its interstate highway system, and 1st in outbound shipments. Undoubtedly, Ohio has the infrastructure to replace Kentucky as the quintessential hemp state.

Only one Ohio-based organization has been a consistent, long time hemp advocate – the Ohio Rights Group. Hemp was included in the ORG’s proposed Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment that accrued 150,000 signatures in 2013-14 and the ORG’s website contains a rich collection of informational resources on the subject. But one group can’t go it alone.

How to make hemp happen in Ohio will be subject at the Industrial Hemp Farm Summit on September 29, 2018 at 11:00 am at the Doran’s Farm in Westerville. Here, farmers and aficionados will learn about the legality, farming, harvesting, processing and benefits of this versatile plant. There will be presentations and conversations aimed forging industrial hemp legislation for Ohio.

So, mark your calendars for September 29th ... because, thanks to the Farm Bill, hemp is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Industrial Hemp Farm Summit – Details

Date:                     September 29, 2018

Time:                     11:00 am - ??

Location:              Doran’s Farm

Address:              8378 Bevelhymer Road, Westerville, Ohio  43081

Price:                     $20.00  - includes lunch

Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite

Hosted by:          Meigs Fertilizer Company

Status of CBD

In June 2016, the DEA established a new Controlled Substances Act code for “marihuana extract” that reinforced CBD’s most restrictive Schedule I status, alongside its storied cousin, marijuana. A federal appellate court rejected the hemp industry’s challenge to the rule, effectively making CBD illegal in all 50 states.

The 2018 Farm Bill contains an encouraging “whole plant” provision that includes extracts like CBD. Legal in all 50 states is possible! However, during mark-up, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), one of Congress's most ardent marijuana opponents, threatened to remove extracts via a floor amendment. Even though Grassley failed to file the amendment, the move gave rise to concerns about GW Pharmaceuticals.

GW’s newly approved cannabidiol extract called Epidiolex has been designated a “New Chemical Entity” by the FDA. This means that GW will be granted a five-year marketing exclusivity period that goes into effect upon approval. No pharma competition permitted during that time frame. Market exclusivity can run concurrently with patent exclusivity. In March, GW received “Notices of Allowance” from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for five patents pertaining to Epidiolex, all of which expire in 2035.

How far reaching this exclusivity will be can only be discerned by looking through a crystal ball. Will the feds launch a blitz to remove all CBD products from the shelves no matter where they are found? Will a woman driving through Wyoming with CBD oil do jail time?

In response to queries about CBD, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program has stated, “Ohio law does not make a distinction between CBD oil derived from hemp and CBD oil derived from marijuana … Only licensed dispensaries will have the authority to dispense medical marijuana products in Ohio.” Apart from Epidiolex, the read here is that, in Ohio, the Program dispenses all CBD, regardless.

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