Trump signs 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp cultivation on a federal level

By Jon Johnson

WASHINGTON D.C. – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it on their plantations. It was grown for the war effort in 1943 at the behest of the government, and now a plant with hundreds of uses may now be grown again nationwide. 

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday, Dec. 20, effectively legalizing the cultivation and processing of hemp throughout the United States. 

Contributed Photo: President Donald J. Trump, shown here with Vice President Mike Pence, signs the 2018 Farm Bill.

The 807-page, $867-billion agriculture legislation was previously passed by Congress on Dec. 12. 

Industrial hemp is a cousin of cannabis (marijuana) that contains less than .3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that produces a high for the user. So, in effect, a person could not get high from smoking hemp, just like a person could not get drunk from drinking non-alcoholic beer.

Arizona previously passed SB 1098 which was signed by Doug Ducey on May 14. That bill provides funding for the Arizona Department of Agriculture’s (AZDA) pilot program, which allows universities and those with a license to begin cultivating hemp. With the new federal Farm Bill, hemp farmers in Arizona can now ship the hemp to other states for processing as it is an agricultural commodity and no longer on the Schedule 1 narcotics list. 

Farmers who grow hemp will be subject to testing by the AZDA to ensure the plant is indeed hemp and does not go over the THC threshold. 

Harvested hemp is produced into a wide range of products, including building materials, food, paper, and textiles. Currently, at least 34 states have passed legislation related to industrial hemp, according to the release. Henry Ford once made a car out of hemp in the early 1930s, and the plant was poised to become the next big thing in agriculture. Ironically, some activists point to its many uses as why cannabis (marijuana) was made illegal federally in 1937, so those who controlled timber, textiles, and other industries that would be threatened by hemp cultivation could make hemp illegal as well. Even so, five years after being made illegal, the tax act was briefly lifted as the U.S. Departent of Agriculture produced and released “Hemp for Victory” in 1942 encouraging farmers to grow as much hemp as possible for the war effort because industrial fibers were in short supply. The hemp fiber was used to create ropes for the U.S. Navy and stitching in parachutes among other uses. The film shows a  brief history of hemp and hemp products, how it is grown, and how hemp is processed into rope, cloth, cordage, and other products.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Cotton is king in the Gila Valley, but will the new federal legality of hemp give some farmers motivation to try a new crop?

In the Gila Valley, cotton is king, but that could change if hemp cultivation is widely accepted. Unlike cotton, which only produces one crop per year, hemp can produce up to four crops per year while using only a fraction of the water. In fact, Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City – a proponent of the Arizona bill – said hemp cultivation uses 90 percent less water than cotton. For the drought-stricken Gila Valley, which is now being threatened with having wells being metered by the state, switching from cotton to hemp could be a necessity.

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