WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved the 2018 Farm Bill with a vote of 87-13, followed Wednesday by a landslide of approval in Congress, where the bill won by 369-47 votes.
Overwhelming bipartisan approval of the Farm Bill now sends the legislation to President Trump’s desk for his signature, which could happen as early as next week.
The Farm Bill is omnibus legislation that lays out federal policies for agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Standout legislation from this year’s bill includes provisions for the legal cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States.
Co-author of the legislation and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined benefits for farmers and mentioned hemp specifically in a statement on this week’s passage of the bill.
“Of course, each of these important victories for Kentucky’s farmers comes in addition to the new opportunities available with the full legalization of industrial hemp, as I’ve discussed extensively here on the floor,” McConnell stated. “So all in all, this legislation is a big win for farmers in Kentucky and across our country. I’m proud to have played a part in delivering that victory. It’s been my privilege to represent Kentucky farmers on the Agriculture Committee every day that I’ve served in the Senate. The multi-year bill we’ve produced is a credit to the leadership of Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow. And now the fruits of their labor are finally on their way to the White House.”
The U.S. is the largest global importer of industrial hemp products from countries where it has long been legal to grow, including France, the Netherlands, and China. The de-scheduling of hemp from a prohibited substance is predicted to be a boon to American farmers, as well as the emerging legal cannabis industry–especially for the CBD-infused product categories.
Agricultural and hemp industry members reacted with considerable enthusiasm at the news of the Farm Bill’s passage and the prospect of hemp legislation to be signed into law by the President.
CBD product manufacturer Irwin Naturals announced that on the day that President Trump signs the legislation, the company will give away $1,000,000 worth of CBD product (MSRP and not including shipping) in celebration. Consumers can sign up to receive their sample, while supplies last.
Company founder and author Klee Irwin said in a release, “”Our mission is to spread health to the world through plant medicine. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to give something back to our Country (sic)–a nation in an emergency state of emotional and physical health.”
“There are, arguably, five plant molecules that have changed the course of how we eat and live, and which have had a massive impact (some positive some not so much) on human history. These are alcohol, sugar, theobromine from chocolate, nicotine, and caffeine. CBD will be the sixth. It will become ubiquitous in our food supply because it will have a profound impact on our health and wellness–on our society, really,” Irwin described.
GCH, Inc., the company behind musician Willie Nelson’s Willie’s Reserve and Willie’s Remedy cannabis and CBD brands issued a statement. Nelson has been a longtime supporter and performer for benefit organization and concert findraiser Farm Aid.
“We’re so pleased farmers across America now have the freedom to consider integrating this important crop into their production, particularly with the trade concerns around other crops such as soybeans, corn, and wheat,” GHC Vice President of Brands Elizabeth Hogan. “We look forward to working hand-in-hand with current and new hemp farmers as we develop more products for Willie’s Remedy, Willie Nelson’s new line of CBD-infused products.”
CBD manufacturer and retailer Sun God Medicinals said they saw a spike in orders upon announcement of the Farm Bill’s approval. Founder and chief executive officer Brie Malarkey told mgretailer that popular products included their proprietary pet products, tinctures, and topicals. She attributed part of the increase to conservative customers coming forward to place orders, with assurance of impending legality of hemp products.
“As a product line manufacturer that turns down customers ordering from more conservative states, like Alabama and Idaho–who have made it clear in the past that they were not ok with CBD-rich hemp products–the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill makes it very clear that hemp has been removed from the CSA (Controlled Substances Act), as well as the fact that hemp products can be shipped across state lines and into all 50 states.” Malarkey explained. “We are looking forward to not turning down customers who are interested in our medicinal herb products that contain hemp just because they live in a conservative part of the country.”
At MagicalButter.com, manufacturer of kitchen equipment for at-home cannabis cooks and edible makers, Chief Executive Officer Garyn Angel said, “With expanded access to industrial hemp, we are about to experience the mass-market explosion of CBD, THC’s non-psychoactive cousin. Not only will we likely see more innovation from the existing CBD extracts and edibles market, huge global brands are ready and waiting to launch CBD-infused products nationwide.
“What I’m most excited for is an increase in the scientific testing for CBD and the 100-plus other cannabinoids in hemp. Expanded testing and access is something we support and hope contributes to a better understanding of how hemp and cannabis can change how we manage chronic pain,” Angel said further.
Lisa Richards, co-chief executive officer of L’eela CBD Body Care, commented, “What is known about CBD is only the tip of the iceberg. The whole plant extracts derived from Hemp that contain CBD, is an oil that not only provides excellent hydration and anti-inflammatory properties, it contains significant amounts of antioxidants. Consumers are just starting to understand the benefits of CBD, and when the floodgates open, they are going to need to be educated and be their own advocates. Hemp may be federally legal with the passage of the Farm Bill. However, more importantly, where is it sourced? How is it processed? The passage of the Farm Bill is only the first chapter.”
Canadian-based agricultural producer Village Farms International, Inc., is a global distributor of produce grown in more than 9 million square feet of greenhouses in Canada and Texas. Village Farms Chief Executive Officer Michael DeGiglio looked forward to aggressive market expansion into industrial hemp.
“The full and unambiguous legalization of hemp, and especially hemp-derived CBD products, creates a tremendous global opportunity and Village Farms intends to be a leader in this nascent industry,” said DeGiglio, in a press statement. “With one of the largest existing greenhouse footprints in the U.S. and a 30-year proven track record as a large-scale, low-cost grower of high-value crops, Village Farms has a formidable platform to capitalize on the hemp and CBD opportunity. In anticipation of the passage of this landmark legislation, over the last several months, we have undertaken broad and extensive foundational work to ensure Village Farms can move quickly, aggressively and profoundly.”
A member of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, Village Farms advocated strongly for the legalization of hemp crops, according to DeGiglio, and will continue advocacy on a global stage to widen opportunities for new markets and increased trade.
Maruchy LaChance, co-founder and chief operations officer of Colorado-based research & development firm and manufacturer Boulder Botanical & Bioscience Laboratory, expressed optimism and said, “This definitive new federal law is going to revolutionize the market for hemp-derived products in America, while opening promising channels to make U.S. hemp companies players on the global stage. We welcome the move from the gray market into the light.”
“Now that there is clear-cut guidance for legal sales of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products and allowing interstate commerce,” LaChance added, “American companies can move forward in confidence with domestically sourced hemp and development of cannabinoid products to help consumers seeking to enhance their natural wellness.”
Experts and pundits speculate that CBD markets could reach $2.1 billion by 2020. Earlier this year, cannabis industry market data firm Arcview Group and partner BDS Analytics projected that global legal cannabis market revenue would reach $57 billion by 2027, with up to one third of that amount representing $19.1 billion in spending on medical marijuana, including CBD products.
That kind of exponential growth, even if speculative, has lured blue chip investors, VC funders, and cyber currency traders, as well as deep-pocketed multinational corprorate players, into a wide spectrum of cannabis and hemp industry sectors.
In Canada, where nationwide cannabis legalization took effect in October, the opening of markets has resulted in a recent slew of billion dollar acquisitions, mergers, and partnerships. Tobacco brand Phillip Morris (parent of Marlboro) and adult beverage distributor Constellation Brands (parent of Corona Beer) this year invested in Canadian cannabis companies.
U.S. cannabis industry businesses still face significant obstacles to federal legalization, and are watching developments in the CBD categories carefully and cautiously, as well as the potential for global markets. Several business owners and executives commented on the possibilities, but also what could be pitfalls.
“The cannabis industry is closely watching the outcome of the Farm Bill. And while we are seeing a lot of startups try to move in, nobody is better suited to operate in this market than experienced licensed cannabis manufacturers,” said Colorado-based edibles manufacturer Wana Brands founder and CEO Nancy Whiteman.
“Marijuana infused producers have been perfecting precise dosing, testing and supply chains for the past decade, and these companies will lead the way in the next generation of CBD products. CBD-only products are perfect for those seeking the therapeutic benefits of CBD without the intoxicating effects of THC,” Whiteman continued.
“I’m looking forward to the huge boost to the economy, untold thousands of jobs, and everything from toilet paper to concrete being made from this extremely efficient renewable resource,” said Katie Stem, chief executive officer at Oregon-based cannabis producer Peak Extracts.
“My only trepidation is the looming presence of big pharma,” Stem cautioned. “With the first cannabis-derived drug recently approved (Epidiolex) by the FDA, I’m concerned that cultivation, extraction, and distribution of hemp/CBD will be unnecessarily restricted to large corporations. It’s important that innovation across many industries–from medicine to construction–not be limited.
“My fear is that if CBD is not properly scheduled by the DEA, it will become an expensive pharmaceutical, rather than a cheap and readily available medicinal supplement. There are ways to regulate it to ensure public safety—specifically, regarding dosage, homogeneity, and pesticide/heavy metal contamination—without hampering access to those who could benefit from this powerful medicine.”