United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that he would introduce legislation that would legalize hemp as an agriculture product. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would essentially remove hemp from a list of controlled substances that are prohibited under federal law. According to Majority Leader McConnell, his legislation would remove federal barriers to expand domestic production of hemp and provide hemp researchers access to federal grants from the US Department of Agriculture.
While hemp is closely associated with marijuana, a Schedule 1 narcotic that is prohibited under federal law but permitted under certain state laws, industrial hemp has received some reprieve from federal oversight in recent history. In 2014, states were permitted to designate certain hemp projects for research and development. It is important to note that the timing of the new legislation is still not clear. Congress must pass a farm bill by the end of September 2018, when the current law expires, and many analysts believe that Majority Leader McConnell may seek to add his proposal to the new farm bill. We will continue to monitor the industrial hemp legislation as it develops.