The Farm Bill 2018, which seeks to legalize hemp, is set to ban anyone who has been previously convicted of drug felonies from growing the plant in the future.
Some existing hemp entrepreneurs could face repercussions for their past mistakes and many may even face being shut out of the hemp industry.
One such entrepreneur, Veronica Carpio, expressed her concerns at a hemp conference in New York last month.
The experienced hemp producer and president of Grow Hemp Colorado said: “I have a very successful business, I have been in this from the get-go.
If this bill passes, I’m out.”
Carpio has a past felony regarding cannabis and it this is, rather than her recent contributions to the hemp industry, that could alter the future of her company. If this bill is passed with the new clause, Carpio could face being forced to cease her involvement in the hemp business.
The cause of these concerns is the Senate version of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill 2018) which seeks to legalize the growing of hemp across the country.
This current movement to legalize industrial hemp is lead by Senator Mitch McConnel. His Hemp Farming Act of 2018 quickly received bipartisan sponsorship.
However, unlike previous bills, this amendment will ban anyone who has been convicted of a drug-related felony from having an involvement in the production of hemp. Businesses are concerned that it won’t end there and they may be prevented from other aspects of their industry too.
Ban Divides Hemp Advocates Over Legalization
Hemp is the only crop in the United States that faces these kinds of restrictions.
Although most hemp advocates celebrated and supported McConnel’s initial plans to legalize hemp, the community remains divided over this new clause that will prevent many from growing hemp.
We spoke to several hemp experts and advocates who suggested that this change in the amendment is a result of the Senate’s efforts to appease conservative ideas from the Department of Justice.
The House version of this amendment does not include plans to legalize hemp, leaving legislators the responsibility to debate this and other arising differences in a conference committee before the Farm Bill can be passed.
Supporters of the hemp legalization like Rick Trojan, who is the vice president of the Hemp Industries Association, expressed their concerns for the future of the hemp industry if this bill was passed.
“Excluding a whole class of people is not what I’m about,” Trojan said. “And not what I think the hemp industry is about”
The Hemp Industries Association aims to advance the economy of the hemp business.
Many, like Trojan, believe that this bill will create an unfair and unequal hemp industry if many growers are banned from contributing.
Hemp Entrepreneurs Face Being Shut Out Of Their Industry
In 2014 a version of this amendment saw a partial re-legalization of hemp throughout the United States. Under this version of the bill, states were able to produce research programmes, including market research, into hemp and hemp-based products like CBD oil.
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Through this act hemp growers in Carpio’s home base of Colorado became the country’s top hemp producers.
The recent version of this amendment will take hemp out of the control of those in the industry and place it into the hands of the Department of Agriculture instead. This department is the government division for farming, forestry, and food nationwide and is responsible for the approval of each state or Native American tribe’s growing and farming programs.
However, the following clause will ban thousands of people like Carpio from licensed hemp growth:
FELONY.—Any person convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance under State or Federal law shall be ineligible—
(i) to participate in the program established under this section; and
(ii) to produce hemp under any regulations or guidelines issued under section 297D(a).
As the bill is still being debated, the full consequences of the clause remain uncertain.
The President of Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization dedicated to gaining the acceptance and free market of hemp products like CBD gummies 1000mg, Eric Steenstra is certain that this amendment will ban many from the growing of hemp and potentially other aspects of the business.
“We are disappointed to see that this got added to the language,” Streenstra said.
“That’s not something we’re happy about.”
Is The Legalization Amendment Racist?
“Just because you had a conviction for a drug-related felony doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t be in the industry,” Streenstra claimed.
Many advocates for the hemp industry argue that cannabis is harmless and can actually be beneficial to users.
Why, if the United States is in the process of legalizing hemp, should people be banned from participating in this industry? Surely after legalization, these convictions shouldn’t hold any weight. It would certainly be better for this rising industry to have people with previous experience of growing and producing hemp involved.
“That is a way of intentionally slowing the growth of an industry,” speculates Trojan. Both Trojan and Carpio remain unflinchingly opposed to this clause and suggest that it represents the racial overtones in the ongoing war on drugs.
Although people from all races utilize and sell mind-altering substances, the convictions for these offenses disproportionately hit people of color.
“We denounce racism and discrimination in cannabis (both hemp and marijuana) industries and this new language needs to be challenged and removed,” Carpio stated in a recent press release.
Critics of the war on drugs are pushing to legalize not only cannabis but other substances too. Their work is attempting to change the laws around drug-related felonies to allow people to expunge their criminal records.
Carpio expressed that this felony ban in the legalization of hemp represents a serious issue to the efforts of those critics. The current laws already exclude thousands of vulnerable people from producing an income from hemp and this clause in the Farm Bill 2018 seeks to do the same.
Statistics show that more people are arrested for cannabis-related issues than any other violent crimes combined meaning that, despite many states looking to legalize hemp, countless people will be excluded from the industry due to their past convictions.
Can It Be Changed In Time?
Streenstra speculates that it will be difficult to alter the conditions of the hemp legalization act and the bill will be passed as it stands.
Although he pledges to search for opportunities to change the amendment in favor of the industry, he remains exasperated.
“At this point, what are we going to do?” he asked.
These concerns were echoed by Joy Beckerman, president of the Hemp Industrial Association:
“There is no such thing as a legislation that doesn’t have concerns or flaws, unfortunately,” she said.
Appearing at the same hemp conference in New York as Carpio, Beckerman claimed:
“I would love to be able to go from prohibition to utopia but sadly that is just not the way things work.”
Despite these intense concerns, Trojan encourages hemp supporters to keep fighting.
“Everyone needs to contact their legislator,” he urged. “Continue to push for equal access to this economic boon.”
We, at Cbd Oil Adviser, will continue to follow this issue closely.