A hemp legalization amendment in the 2018 Farm Bill prevents anyone with a felony drug conviction from growing hemp.
Some existing hemp entrepreneurs could even find themselves shut out.
“I have a very successful business, I’ve been in this from the get go,” said Veronica Carpio, an experienced hemp producer and president of Grow Hemp Colorado, at a hemp conference in New York last month.
Despite her undeniable contributions to the industry, a past felony cannabis conviction endangers her continued involvement. “If this bill passes, I’m out.”
At issue is part of the Senate version of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp growing across the country. Sen. Mitch McConnell spearheaded the current effort to legalize industrial hemp and his “Hemp Farming Act of 2018” soon picked up bipartisan sponsorship. However, the hemp legalization amendment, unlike the original bill, bans anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from involvement in hemp growing and potentially other aspects of the industry.
FELONY BAN DIVIDES HEMP ADVOCATES OVER LEGALIZATION AMENDMENT
No other crop grown in the U.S. faces these kinds of restrictions. While most hemp advocates celebrated McConnell’s initial efforts to legalize hemp, they’re much more divided over this new clause. Multiple hemp experts we spoke with speculated that the Senate changed the language to appease conservative elements of the legislature and the Department of Justice.
The House version of the bill does not include hemp legalization. Legislators must now debate this and other differences in a conference committee before the Farm Bill passes to the President’s desk. Hemp supporters like Rick Trojan, vice president of the Hemp Industries Association, worry that even if it passes the amendment will create an unequal and unfair hemp industry.
“Excluding a whole class of people is not what I’m about,” Trojan said. “And not what I think the hemp industry is about.”
HEMP LEGALIZATION AMENDMENT COULD SHUT OUT HEMP ENTREPRENEURS
The United States partially re-legalized hemp through an amendment to the 2014 version of the Farm Bill. Under this previous hemp legalization amendment, states were free to create hemp research programs that included market research (sales of hemp products like CBD). Since then growers in Colorado, Carpio’s home base, made the state into the country’s top hemp producer.