The 2018 Farm Bill was revolutionary for the cannabis industry, but also left many unanswered questions on the regulatory framework, making the market a ‘wild west’ full of many unsafe products. The lack of regulation means safety standards are up to CBD companies, but how are consumers able to tell the good guys from the bad guys?
At a recent House Agriculture Subcommittee meeting, advocates and lawmakers agreed that the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill must include language to regulate CBD and other non-intoxicating hemp derivatives as dietary supplements. Since the federal legalization of hemp, as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, many challenges have been identified with the implementation of the current law by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the new 2023 Farm Bill is set to tackle through these legislative reforms.
The Importance of Regulatory Framework
The cannabis industry has a massive amount of potential, but in order to really reach its peak, regulatory framework is important, according to Blake Schroeder, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. After the 2018 Farm Bill, everyone got excited to enter the market, but there were no contracts formed to be able to sell hemp. Since the FDA never got around to creating rules, larger companies stayed away from selling these products. Shroeder says once that changes, we will see a massive boom in the industry and all of the big players in the market will start offering CBD-related merchandise.
Making Hemp Farmers’ Lives Easier
“The 2018 Farm Bill was a great victory for the industry, but with the new Farm Bill, there will be a lot of issues on the table and a lot of room for us to continue to press forward and make progress,” Schroeder said. “Right now, if you are a farmer with legal Farm Bill hemp crops, it is not easy to grow them at all, so there is massive progress that can be made there.”
According to Schroeder, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is supposed to test every item that comes off of hemp farms, which seems almost impossible. There are strict regulations with respect to the amounts of THC that farmers are able to have in plants, otherwise they are at risk of losing their entire crop. In the last Farm Bill, even though it is clear that anything with less than 0.3% THC is legal hemp, there is a discrepancy in terms of how the FDA is approaching this limit. All of these issues can be fixed and it can be a whole lot easier to grow hemp with the new Farm Bill regulations.
The 2023 Farm Bill’s Impact on the Industry
Since 2018, the past few years have been filled with talk of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, increasing inflation, and supply chain issues. With the new Farm Bill, Shroeder is hopeful that the cannabis industry will finally get the attention it deserves and we can continue to build the market up to its full potential. With more specific regulations that will hopefully be put in place, more consumers will have access to safer and more effective CBD products.
“If you look at the cannabis industry, and how we went from banning all cannabis from our economy in 1927 to the massive victory from the Farm Bill in 2018, there should be more victories to come from this new Farm Bill,” Shroeder said. “We will likely not get everything we are looking for, but hopefully we can get more clarity on rule-making and also the legal limit in THC in crops to one percent instead of 0.3%. I know that is on the table right now and will vastly help farmers, so hopefully we can restructure some things to make that more feasible, but there will still be more work that needs to be done after the bill is wrapped up.”
Raising the Legal THC Limit
The 2018 Farm Bill was able to make a clear distinction between marijuana and hemp, with hemp being defined as anything with less than 0.3% of THC. That alone made a massive change in cannabis regulation in the U.S., but Shroeder believes that if we want to continue to help our farmers, the limit should be anything less than one percent of THC. That does not mean that users have to consume the entire amount, since they can always scale back if there is a concern, but this would make farming hemp a lot easier.
“We need a rule-making process for everyone in the industry because there are companies like ours who want to follow the rules and do things the right way, but not everyone in the industry is doing that and there are still businesses who are manufacturing products in their garage, which is not good. Decent rule-making with solid definitions is really important with the 2023 Farm Bill,” Shroeder said.