Congress later passed a more permanent farm bill, known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, with a stipulation to review and update the bill every five years. This was again updated in 2008 to what became known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. There have been multiple revisions of this farm bill since 2008.
Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, all cannabis products—including non-intoxicating CBD oil – were treated the same as marijuana, which remains a Schedule I drug. However, this new piece of legislation used specific language regarding THC levels, in order to distinguish between what it deems “industrial hemp” (cannabis plants and products containing <0.3% THC which is considered to be only a trace amount) vs. marijuana which contains 0.3% or more of THC.
History of the U.S. Farm Bill
Have you heard about the U.S Farm Bill? You might be surprised to learn that when people and news sources refer to the “Farm Bill” they are often referring to the most recent legislation passed regarding a long-standing bill. The most recent Farm Bill (which passed in December of 2018) had a big impact on the cannabis industry, specifically CBD oil and products. Read on to learn more about this key piece of legislation.
THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component responsible for marijuana’s “high.” This new legislation opened the door for the CBD industry to boom, as the bill legalized hemp oil CBD oil at the federal level. Subsequently, some states have passed additional regulations surrounding CBD, and individuals are advised to check with their city and state government for the most current regulations in their area.
Here is a link to the USDA’s full summary of the current Farm Bill and here is the full law as it stands today. Click here for an in-depth look at the history of each U.S. Farm Bill since 1933, including a side-by-side comparison. The current Farm Bill will be up for renewal again sometime during 2023.
First, I would like to thank this Committee for explicitly preserving FDA’s authority over hemp products in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill, PL 115-334). We recognize the substantial potential that hemp has for our nation’s farmers and agriculture sector. FDA’s approach to cannabis and cannabis derived products, including hemp products, is to treat these products just like we do any other. FDA is committed to advancing hemp products through the Agency’s existing regulatory pathways, and we are further exploring whether it would be appropriate to make additional regulatory pathways available to hemp products such as those containing cannabidiol (CBD). FDA believes taking this approach protects patients and the public health, fosters innovation for safe and appropriate products, and promotes consumer confidence.
As part of the Agency’s commitment to engage the public on cannabis products and their derivatives, we held a public hearing on May 31, 2019. The goal of the public hearing was to obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. The hearing was attended in person by more than 600 people, with over 2,000 more viewing it on line, and included presentations from more than 100 speakers, representing a broad and diverse array of stakeholders, including patients, consumers, and their advocacy groups; health care providers; academia; manufacturers, retailers and distributors; agricultural coalitions; and state, tribal, and local government representatives.
Through the approval of the CBD-containing drug Epidiolex, which was based on adequate and well-controlled clinical studies, FDA has learned that CBD is not a risk-free substance. During our review of the marketing application for Epidiolex, we identified certain safety risks, including the potential for liver injury 6 . In that context, the risks are outweighed by the benefits of the approved drug to the particular population for which it was intended.
Good morning, Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow, and Members of the Committee. I am Dr. Amy Abernethy, Principal Deputy Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss FDA’s role in the regulation of hemp products. I am also pleased to appear with Greg Ibach from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Alexandra Dunn from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). FDA works collaboratively with USDA and EPA on a day in and day out basis across the Agency’s programs to ensure coordination across the Federal government.
While FDA is considering the possibility of new legal pathways for CBD products, we know that it is important to maintain adequate incentives for drug research and development. Drugs have important therapeutic value and are approved after rigorous scientific studies that provide important new information about therapeutic uses. It is critical that we continue to do what we can to support the science needed to develop new drugs from cannabis. To date, FDA has approved four drugs that contain active ingredients that are cannabinoids found in or related to the cannabis plant. In addition to Epidiolex, which contains plant-derived purified CBD, and was approved for treating two rare forms of pediatric epilepsy, FDA has approved three drugs containing other cannabinoids for treating the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea 9 . Among these three products, two contain synthetically-derived dronabinol, which is chemically identical to THC, and the third contains nabilone, a synthetic chemical analogue of THC, not naturally occurring in cannabis.
The hemp CBD industry is based on a dysfunctional falsehood, a big lie – the lie that says cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC is a dangerous drug with no medical value. This blatant lie is the cornerstone of the Controlled Substance Act, which continues to drive federal cannabis policy.
When a handful of CBD -rich varietals (Harlequin, Jamaican Lion, OmRita Rx, Sour Tsunami, Blue Jay Way, etc.) were discovered ten years ago in Northern California, these plants were what we now refer to as “Type 2’s” – high-resin cannabis with substantial amounts of both CBD and THC .
And farmers who cultivate hemp for CBD content will still have to contend with “hot” crops that inadvertently exceed the 0.3 percent THC limit. Any plants that test even slightly higher are in violation of federal law and must be destroyed.
A Challenge for Breeders
A major challenge for cannabis breeders has been to create stout, resinous CBD -rich chemovars that don’t top the 0.3 percent THC threshold – that’s the Holy Grail of hemp CBD genetics. It hasn’t been easy. The plant seems to resist efforts to stabilize according to this politically correct, genomic profile. If grown to full term to maximize CBD production, these resin-rich varietals will likely surpass the legal THC limit.
The hemp CBD industry is based on a big lie, a dysfunctional falsehood.
(Nomenclature alert. “Type 1’s” are resin-rich, high- THC /low- CBD plants, the kind that gets you high. “Type 3’s” are just the opposite: high- CBD /low- THC plants that don’t get you high; some Type 3’s qualify legally as hemp and some don’t.)
Thanks to the Farm Bill, industrial cannabis – i.e., fiber hemp – is now clearly outside the scope of the DEA ’s enforcement mandate, unlike resin-rich medicinal cannabis, which remains proscribed under federal law.