Both houses of Congress have now approved the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill. Donald Trump is expected to sign it, despite his misgivings about the bill’s rules for federal food stamp recipients.
On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which includes language that will see the full legalization of hemp nationwide.
The final vote was 369 in favor and 47 against, representing significant support for the bill as well as its hemp amendment — which was originally only inserted into the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill.
In June, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell inserted the complete language of his Hemp Farming Act as an amendment into the Senate version of the Farm Bill while the bill was still in committee. When his amendment passed intact with the Senate bill, McConnell took the irregular step of serving on the conference committee that resolved the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. In the conference committee’s first meeting, he personally petitioned his fellow representatives to support hemp legalization.
On Monday, December 10, the conference committee released the final version of the bill and it still contained McConnell’s hemp legalization provision. On Tuesday, December 11, the Senate voted in favor of approving the final language.
The bill, if signed into law, would remove hemp and its derivatives (including hemp-derived CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act and would authorize the Department of Agriculture to oversee hemp cultivation and hemp products, as they do other with crops. Hemp is defined in the bill as Cannabis sativa L. plants with less that 0.3 percent THC.
The bill also includes a controversial amendment that would bar anyone with a drug-related felony from participating in the legal hemp industry for 10 years after their conviction, unless they receive a license from a state hemp pilot program before the bill is signed into law.
The 2018 Farm Bill was supposed to pass by September 30, as that was the date that the provisions and funding in the 2014 Farm Bill expired. However, there were significant delays, as Congress fiercely debated whether or not to increase work requirements for people who receive food stamps through the federal SNAP program. Pushing the final bill through conference committee was also delayed for the funeral of President George H. W. Bush last week.
The bill will now head to President Donald Trump for his signature. During the legislative debates on the Farm Bill, Trump made it clear that he wanted more work requirements for SNAP recipients, which the final 2018 Farm Bill does not include. Trump has not publicized his opinion on whether or not he will support the hemp legalization provision.
On Tuesday, after signing the Senate-approved bill with a hemp pen, McConnell joked, “I’d be happy to lend him my hemp pen for the occasion.”
The lobbyists at U.S. Hemp Roundtable said in an email shortly after the vote that they were expecting “some sort of ceremonial bill signing imminently.”
Before the House voted on Wednesday afternoon, multiple representatives spoke in favor of legalizing hemp.
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), who served as the Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture and as the chairman of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission starting in 2012, said, “I am particularly glad to see industrial hemp rescheduled from the Controlled Substances List, a key provision I worked with Leader McConnell on to ensure unnecessary government restrictions are lifted from this valuable agricultural commodity.”
From the other side of the aisle, Rep. Earl Blumenaur (D-OR) — who has worked for years to protect state-legal cannabis industries from federal prosecution through spending amendments on the Department of Justice —said he was excited about hemp legalization but worried the bill didn’t go far enough to support American farmers and address environmental crises.
“Near and dear to my heart are reforms for hemp,” Blumenaur said. “But I am concerned that it does not adequately address the growing crisis in American agriculture… We are not dealing with the chemical warfare inspired by Monsanto and Bayer, we’ve got the Trump tariffs, [and] climate devastation that is getting more serious by the month.”
Even Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who has spent years blocking cannabis amendments from reaching the House floor through his chairmanship of the House Rules Committee, spoke in favor of hemp legalization. No House representative voiced dissent against hemp.