What’s Happened Since the 2018 Farm Bill?

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Happy anniversary, legal hemp!

Today marks a very special occasion for the hemp industry. It’s been exactly one year since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, a momentous piece of legislation that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and made it permanently, federally legal.

This bill was a huge triumph for the industry and opened up the world to CBD like never before. However, the battle hasn’t been completely won yet. Hemp businesses, advocates, and lobbyists are still fighting for even greater access to hemp and CBD as well as comprehensive guidelines for its production and commerce.

Here’s a look at what has happened in the year since the 2018 Farm Bill, and where we expect the hemp industry to head next.

SAFE Banking Act

In September 2019, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act. This bill provides federal protections for hemp and CBD financial transactions by ensuring that banks and financial institutions would not face federal punishment. It also directs the FDIC and Federal Reserve to issue clear, formal guidance to banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions about the legality of hemp and CBD commerce.

This bill is a huge step forward for hemp companies, as limitations on financial services have been a major roadblock since the 2014 Farm Bill. However, the battle hasn’t been won just yet. This bill will now move onto the Senate, where it will likely encounter a much more difficult battle. 

Here’s where you can still help! Use the U.S. Hemp Roundtable’s online portal to contact your state senators and share your continued support for the SAFE Banking Act. 

USDA Interim Final Rule

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its Interim Final Rule (IFR) on the establishment of a domestic hemp production program. This rule comes 10 months after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and made it federally legal to domestically grow and sell hemp for the first time in over 40 years. The purpose is to establish the rules and regulations for hemp production in the U.S., as well as the provisions for the USDA to approve submitted plans. It also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Indian Tribes that do not have their own USDA-approved plan.

In the IFR, the USDA affirmed that the 2018 Farm Bill preempts state law. So, states that wish to create their own hemp production plan must enforce regulations at least as strict as the Farm Bill and the USDA federal plan. States could, however, regulate hemp even more stringently than the federal plan if they wish - in fact, they may make the production and distribution of hemp and hemp products outright illegal. However, states and native tribes may not prevent the movement of hemp through their states or territories even if they prohibit its production. 

“We are pleased to see the USDA deliver a very comprehensive IFR. We’re hopeful that this will encourage financial institutions to begin partnering with hemp and CBD companies and allow the industry to reach its potential,” said Brandon Beatty, CEO and founder of Bluebird Botanicals. 

Read more about the Interim Final Rule and what it means for hemp companies.

2019 FDA Warning Letters

Since the nascent stages of the CBD industry, companies have been attempting to market their hemp CBD products by claiming that it can treat or cure a number of diseases. These companies have been directly violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by doing so. In response, the FDA has issued a number of warning letters to offending CBD companies directing them to remove these claims or otherwise face legal action including seizure and injunction. 

In a recent sweep, the FDA issued 15 warning letters in November. At the same time, it also reiterated alleged safety concerns. These were not new concerns and the additional comments made in the warning letters were not divergent from previous guidance issued by the FDA. It continues to be clear that the FDA is focused on companies who are making egregious disease claims or using unsafe hemp and CBD from untrustworthy sources. 

Our company and several other longstanding CBD manufacturers continue to prioritize customer safety over all other objectives. Bluebird does not make medical claims about its products in any circumstances and has long led the industry in quality and transparency. We were the first company to introduce a batch database allowing the public to view third-party lab tests on each and every single product that leaves our facility. 

Likewise, our in-house laboratory has been certified compliant under current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) since November of 2018. We were also one of the first 13 hemp companies to be certified under the U.S. Hemp Authority program. Most recently, we became one of the first CBD companies in the world to become a Certified B Corporation®.

Despite the FDA’s comments and additional warning letters, it is also clear that the FDA realizes the significant market for products with CBD and hemp and is continuing to investigate the issues so that it can properly regulate such products and ensure the safety of consumers.

What’s Next? 

The USDA’s Interim Final Rule will certainly continue to impact the hemp industry for years to come. What’s more is that the House Judiciary Committee just passed a landmark bill that could potentially remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and federally legalize it. While this bill is still in its early stages and faces a brutal battle ahead in the Senate, it could absolutely reshape the industry as we know it.

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