For centuries, hemp has been cultivated in North America for its fibers used in the manufacture of ropes and textiles. But in 1937, hemp was declared illegal in the United States due to its association with marijuana, a victim of the War on Drugs. Despite advances in federal hemp policy and state marijuana laws, the federal ban on marijuana still stands. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified hemp as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, grouping it with illicit drugs such as heroin and ecstasy.
This law made it difficult for farmers to produce hemp, and it was illegal to grow or be in possession of hemp without special government tax stamps. Hemp is also used for practical purposes, from clothing to concrete, whereas marijuana has no practical uses. As hemp becomes more familiar to regulatory authorities and society at large, legal issues remain, particularly with respect to consumer products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp. The passage of the hemp legalization bill has led to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issuing a statement that FDA views had not changed and that CBD companies should obtain FDA approval.
The rule re-emphasizes an earlier USDA ruling that interstate transportation is legal, even if the shipment travels through a state that does not allow the cultivation of hemp. My provision in the Farm Bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for their oversight. Now that the cultivation and sale of hemp is legal, greater access to CBD could mean more substantial trials and more definitive research on its supposed health benefits. Cosmetics and soaps produced with hemp seed oil can also reach more store shelves.
The War on Drugs may seem a world away from the advances being made through federal hemp policy and state marijuana laws, but the federal ban on marijuana continues. The CSA did not directly ban hemp for industrial purposes, but instead required producers to obtain a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). With better access to CBD now that it is not being monitored like cannabis, researchers will have better access to study it.