Over the past century, hemp’s legal status in the United States of America has gone through lots of changes. Without having a clear picture of this history, it’s difficult to figure out the best way to move forward. So in the interest of progress, let’s take a deep dive into some of the formative passed legislation that’s shaped hemp’s role in the country!
Part of what makes modern hemp laws in America so confusing is the disparity between federal and state legislation. In order to keep things simple, this blog will be taking a look at federal hemp legislation and the presidents that signed these bills into law.
The Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act and The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
We’ll begin the story of American hemp with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1934 congress drafted the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act, which sought to consolidate state laws regarding the prescribing of narcotics and create uniform regulations for their sale. This bill wasn’t complete until its fifth draft. During these rewrites, the cannabis plant oscillated between being included with narcotics, which the bill referred to as “habit-forming drugs,” and being included in its own supplemental subsection. The bill’s final draft instructed states who desired cannabis regulation to include cannabis in the list of “habit-forming drugs” and regulate accordingly. President FDR was a vocal supporter of this act.
Three years later, congress would pass another essential piece of cannabis-related legislation with Roosevelt’s approval – The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
During the time, hemp seemed poised to become an economically viable alternative to the paper-pulp derived from logging. The timber industry lobbied hard for an oppressive tax on hemp farming, ensuring that their logging profits would remain unchallenged by a more sustainable cash crop. While the paper funneled resources into the passing of The Marihuana Tax Act, the American Medical Association (AMA) opposed the act on the basis that it would hurt physicians and pharmacists who regularly prescribed cannabis at the time. The tax went on to pass and effectively killed both the industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis industries.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970
The year 1970 marks the beginning of the “war on drugs,” a draconian anti-drug ethos coined by Richard Nixon. The Controlled Substances Act passed during this year would replace the 1937 Marihuana Act. Instead of taxing cannabis and hemp into obscurity, The Controlled Substances Act would flat out ban them.
The 2014 Farm Bill
Franklin D. Roosevelt left a lasting impact on the hemp plant, beyond his support and signing of The Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act and The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. His Farm Bill, signed into law in 1933 as part of his other New Deal policies, opened the door for future presidents to tack on new hemp-related legislation.
Part of what makes the Farm Bill unique is its expiration date. Every five years, the bill becomes outdated and must be rewritten. This gives congress and opportunity to make changes to anything agricultural-related every half-decade.
In 2014, Congress and President Barack Obama’s version of the Farm Bill created a pilot program that would focus on hemp research and the benefits of hemp farming.
Hemp Legislation 2017 & Hemp Legislation 2018
The 2014 Farm Bill lay the groundwork for hemp farming to make a comeback in the United States, and three years later, that comeback would begin to be realized. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in 2017. The bill separated hemp and marijuana by THC percentages by dry weight – hemp containing less than 0.3% THC and marijuana containing greater than 0.3% THC. By differentiating hemp from intoxicating marijuana, hemp would no longer be considered a controlled substance, opening it up once again to become a commercial crop.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was added to the 2018 version of the Farm Bill, which was signed into law by Donald Trump on December 20th, 2018. This bill has decriminalized hemp on a federal level, allowing for hemp to be cultivated for a myriad of industrial uses and for the cannabinoid CBD.
Now with federal decriminalization, accessing CBD products like CBD flower or hemp joints is easier than ever. Ultimately, the states still have the final say on whether or not hemp can be cultivated inside their borders. Click here to find out if hemp is legal in your state!