Here in Alaska, Governor Walker recently signed Senate Bill 6 (SB6) into law.
"An Act relating to the regulation and production of industrial hemp; relating to industrial hemp pilot programs; providing that industrial hemp is not included in the definition of 'marijuana'; providing that cannabidiol oil is not included in the definition of 'hashish oil'; clarifying that adding industrial hemp to food does not create an adulterated food product; and providing for an effective date."
Wait, so Hemp isn’t ‘marijuana’?
Yes, and no. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis, but it’s not psychoactive because it doesn’t contain a clinically significant amount of the cannabinoid THC. I personally dislike the word 'marijuana' because it’s a misnomer, originally a slang term used by Mexicans to describe Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, the two varieties of Cannabis that contain THC and are typically smoked for their psychoactive effects.
Hemp is actually Cannabis Ruderalis, the third and the only variety of cannabis that can be theoretically farmed year-round outdoors in Alaska. Besides its myriad industrial uses, it contains copious amounts of a non-psychoactive cannabinoid called CBD (Cannabidiol), which is becoming widely recognized by the medical community for its many therapeutic effects. This makes Hemp a true cash crop, and its oil a commodity that can be processed locally, then exported around the world.
Hemp has been an integral part of America since the earliest days of the colonists. Indeed, Hemp arrived in Colonial America with the Puritans, and was even used for fiber in the lines, sails and caulking of the Mayflower. British sailing vessels were never without a store of hemp seed, and Britain’s colonies in the Americas were compelled by law to grow hemp. After the revolution, America’s Founding Fathers would continue this tradition, one that remained in place through World War II, even though 'marijuana' was prohibited by U.S. law in 1937.
US hemp expansion challenged by lack of trade protection
Unfortunately, it’s not all smooth sailing for Hemp, even as Alaska joins other states like California, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia in passing laws allowing for “industrial hemp farming for research and/or commercial purposes”. This is because there are still restrictions for imports and exports in the 2014 Farm Bill, which “allows the importation of viable hemp seeds from other countries – but doesn’t extend agricultural trade protection to them. The result? The United States has become a dumping ground for inferior Hemp seeds.
Exports are problematic as well; American Hemp seed producers say there’s an insatiable global market for American-grown CBD products derived from hemp, not ‘marijuana’. But U.S. Customs officials routinely seize these Cannabidiol products regardless of the source, leading producers to label exports as “Hemp Oil” or even vaguer names to avoid interception.
Our President’s a businessman, and global opportunities abound in hemp! While our domestic Hemp industry was worth $688 million in 2016, this market is expected to grow to $1.8 billion by 2020. American Hemp farmers really need Trump’s support right now as the industry is exploding worldwide – without the trade protections afforded to other crops.
Hemp industry loses case against DEA, industry in peril
While 14 forward-thinking U.S. States are trying to seize an early opportunity with Hemp, a federal appeals court sided with the Drug Enforcement Administration and upheld its decision that CBD is a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This is a major setback for American Hemp! This decision was just issued Monday by the 9th Circuit Court, means that hemp producers can only sell cannabidiol where it is allowed under state law. It also meant that CBD is no longer “50 state legal”, and that anybody selling it is in violation of federal law.
CBD producers who brought the case vowed to appeal. It started in 2016, when the DEA issued a “clarifying rule” stating that CBD is an illegal drug, because it is extracted from ‘marijuana flowers’. Hemp producers argued that CBD can also be extracted from legal Hemp flowers, and there’s no way to tell whether extracted CBD comes from marijuana or from Hemp.
These CBD producers also argued that the DEA was attempting to add a new substance to the Controlled Substances Act, which it cannot do. The DEA said the extract rule was simply a clarification of existing law and that it “makes no substantive change to the government’s control of any substance.” The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit agreed. Their decision means that the DEA was within its authority to clarify CBD as a “marijuana extract.”
CBD’s legal status remains confusing – for the DEA, and the judges
But wait, there’s more. Even with this new 9th Circuit ruling that CBD is an illegal drug made from ‘marijuana’, the agency released a statement less than a month later clarifying its position and separating Hemp-derived Cannabidiol from its enforcement. The DEA’s Diversion Control Division explained that CBD from hemp grown in compliance with federal law falls outside the purview of the Controlled Substances Act. “Such products may accordingly be sold and otherwise distributed throughout the United States without restriction.”
The agency further clarified that hemp products such as CBD are legal to import and export. This clarification comes in the wake of a federal court decision upholding the DEA’s position that cannabis extracts, including CBD, are illegal drugs that should be treated the same as ‘marijuana’. But the judges pointed out that the CSA does not limit hemp grown in compliance with the 2014 Farm Bill, which allows states to experiment with the crop.
The fact it isn’t possible to tell whether CBD molecules were extracted from hemp or marijuana has led to persistent confusion about the product’s legality.
Earlier this month, Michigan regulators announced CBD will be regulated like medical marijuana. And in Texas, health authorities are mulling a statewide ban on CBD in food products. But the real CBD state battle victory came out of Montana…
Just in time for Montana farmer, Hemp wins federal water battle
If they follow Farm Bill rules for growing the crop, Hemp farmers may have access to federal water, thanks to a long battle by Montana farmer Kim Phillips, and Montana agriculture authorities to secure water rights from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The Montana decision has enormous implications for the nascent hemp industry across the United States. The Reclamation Bureau is the nation’s largest wholesale supplier of water, and many U.S. farmers rely on it, especially out West. Phillips received her water contract last Wednesday, just days before the deadline to plant hemp in Montana’s short summer.
Several Western U.S. senators introduced legislation last year to address hemp and water rights, but the bill languished in committee and was never acted upon.
After losing all 12 acres of hemp in 2017, Phillips saw her crop wither and die when federal authorities said they couldn’t let her irrigate. The Reclamation Bureau had said last year that the 2014 Farm Bill didn’t authorize access to federal water rights. But after this latest ruling, the Reclamation Bureau now says that hemp-related water requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to see if they comply with the Farm Bill.
What else... How about a celebrity-endorsed CBD product line?
Montel Williams is a well-known talk show host in the U.S., whose outspoken advocacy of cannabis treatments for his multiple sclerosis predates many celebrity branding attempts. But when he caught wind last year that other companies were using his name to imply endorsements for their own CBD products, Williams didn’t just call his lawyers to file a fraud lawsuit. He decided it was time to capitalize on the business of selling CBD products.
While Williams’ lawsuit is still pending, he says the case showed him he may be missing the boat on CBD therapies. He sees hemp-derived CBD as a possible bridge toward cannabis acceptance amid a patchwork of confusing state regulations about legal THC ratios.
“We’re in this ridiculous never-never land in America” when it comes to cannabis regulations, Williams said. “It’s gotten so ridiculous it’s almost impossible to navigate. But at the same time, there are patients out there suffering, and we know there is some relief that can be had with CBD. It’s like during flu season, some people take zinc pills, some people take vitamin C. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be adding CBD to your daily holistic program.”
Hemp Bible: “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”
While CBD is getting the most press lately, don’t forget the promise of industrial hemp. Before manufacturing pioneer Henry Ford powered (and build much of) his first automobile with it, he saw Hemp’s potential to “green” power the planet as the world’s most thermodynamically productive biomass crop; Mr. Ford also was also able to forsee the soybean’s potential to feed the world’s livestock, and saw a huge future for both crops.
If you want more info on Cannabis Hemp and its still-unrealized industrial potential, look no further than the immortal Jack Herer’s seminal tome, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. Published in 1985, it took 12 years to write, and has gone through 12 editions to date.
Quoting from the book's back cover:
“If all fossil fuels and their derivatives, as well as trees for paper and construction were banned in order to save the planet, reverse the Greenhouse Effect and stop deforestation; then there is only one known annually renewable natural resource that is capable of providing the overall
majority of the world's paper and textiles; meet all of the world's transportation, industrial and home energy needs, while simultaneously reducing pollution, rebuilding the soil, and cleaning the atmosphere all at the same time... and that substance is -- the same one that did it all before -- Cannabis Hemp... Marijuana!”
The book, backed by H.E.M.P. (United States), Hanf Haus (Germany), Sensi Seeds Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum, Amsterdam, (Netherlands), and T.H.C., the Texas Hemp Campaign (United States), offers $100,000 to anyone who can disprove the claims within.
Herer’s book title alludes to Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes" (1837). He uses Andersen's story as an allegory for the prohibition of Cannabis.