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2018HEMP 1

The Impact of the 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill marked a pivotal turn in American agricultural policy and a significant change to the cannabis industry. This legislation, passed by Congress, opened new doors for hemp cultivation and CBD products. For better or for worse, the 2018 Farm Bill set off a cascade of changes that continue to reverberate through the cannabis market today.

united states capitol building washington dc
The 2018 farm bill marks a change in attitudes toward hemp (and cannabis).

Background of the 2018 Farm Bill

Farm bills have traditionally been essential to shaping US agriculture and food policy, providing important economic aid to farmers and, by extension, influencing food prices across the nation. The 2018 Farm Bill emerged from this idea yet stands apart due to unforeseen wide-reaching implications.

It was passed at a time when national sentiments about cannabis were changing. The passing of this bill mirrored a growing acceptance and curiosity about the plant’s uses beyond just psychoactivity.

Where did the Bill Come From?

The 2018 Farm Bill was born from a complex relationship between economic needs, agricultural sustainability concerns, and industry lobbying. It was championed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, spearheaded by figures such as Senator Mitch McConnell.

McConnell advocated for the legalization of hemp, seeing an economic opportunity for farmers in Kentucky and elsewhere in the United States. The bill was also a response to the needs of an agricultural sector seeking to bolster the farming economy by introducing new crops like hemp, which promised high yields and a multitude of uses.

This intent aligned with shifting public opinions on cannabis, driven by increased interest in CBD for therapeutic purposes. Advocacy groups, farmers, and industry leaders had been pushing for legal clarity and an end to hemp’s confusion with its psychoactive cousin, cannabis.

In addition to hemp legalization, the 2018 Farm Bill addressed issues such as:

  • The expansion of farm subsidies
  • Permanent funding for farmers’ markets
  • Provisions for Organic Farming Research
  • Funding for food assistance programs

Key Provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill

At its core, the 2018 Farm Bill redefined hemp, distinguishing it from marijuana based on THC content and effectively legalizing its cultivation. The bill set the threshold for hemp at a maximum of 0.3% THC by dry weight.

This new threshold allowed hemp to shed its controlled substance label. And with that, hemp’s legal standing and market potential practically transformed overnight.

marijuana leaves cannabis plants in the farm
Cannabis and hemp are the same plant – though legally distinct.

The “Loophole” – Hemp-derived Cannabinoids

The 2018 Farm Bill inadvertently opened a loophole through a stroke of legislative ambiguity. A fundamental lack of understanding of the cannabis plant and how the plant’s cannabinoids work resulted in a failure to specify the legality of cannabinoids beyond THC.

Once companies caught on, they quickly seized the opportunity to produce and sell hemp-derived cannabinoid products, often called “altnoids.” This has become thr foundation of a new – but unregulated industry. The ambiguous language became the foundation for an expansive and uncontested landscape of hemp-derived cannabinoid products.

Learn more about Altnoids.

The Problem with Unregulated Cannabis Products

The 2018 Farm Bill’s liberal approach toward hemp cultivation and cannabinoid products introduced quite a few benefits. But it also brought significant risks thanks to the lack of regulatory oversight.

Without the involvement of federal agencies like the FDA to enforce standards, the burgeoning market for hemp-derived products remains perilously unregulated. Here are several specific problems associated with unregulated cannabis:

Inconsistent Quality

In an unregulated market, there is no assurance of product consistency. Producers may have different cultivation and processing standards, leading to inconsistent product potency and composition.

This can be confusing and potentially harmful to consumers who rely on these products for therapeutic benefits. Without proper regulation, there’s also the risk of mislabeling, where products contain different levels of cannabinoids than stated, potentially exposing consumers to unwanted effects.

Contamination Risks

Without mandatory testing, unregulated cannabis products may contain harmful contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, or even mold. In the regulated cannabis market, stringent testing is required before products can be released.

In an unregulated market, these substances can pose serious health risks, particularly to immunocompromised individuals who use cannabis for medical reasons. The absence of regulation means there is no quality control to check for these dangerous substances, increasing the risk of toxic exposure. 

False Medical Claims

Some manufacturers make unfounded medical claims about their products. Without oversight, companies can promote their products as miracle cures for a wide array of diseases without solid evidence to back these claims. This not only misleads consumers but also potentially steers them away from proven, conventional medical treatments.

Exposure to High Levels of Cannabinoids

There is a risk that products labeled to contain cannabinoids, like Delta 8 THC, may contain higher levels than permitted or expected. This can lead to unintended psychoactive effects, posing a particular risk for users who do not wish to experience the high associated with intoxicating cannabinoids.

Economic Disadvantages

The unregulated market can create an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses. Companies that invest in higher standards of cultivation, proper labeling, and testing can find themselves at a competitive disadvantage against those who cut corners. This stifles innovation and investment in the industry, ultimately slowing the development of safe and effective cannabis products.

Moving towards a regulated framework is important for the safety and benefit of consumers and the health of the industry. The primary goal should be to ensure product safety, high cultivation standards, and the protection of consumers from the risks associated with unregulated cannabis.

Industry Responses and Adaptations

The 2018 Farm Bill’s introduction of legalized hemp cultivation triggered a quick response from the cannabis industry and state governments, each adapting to the surge of hemp-derived cannabinoid products in unique ways.

Industry Innovation and Quality Control

Faced with a new market and a desire to establish trust with consumers, many companies in the cannabis sector have voluntarily implemented rigorous quality control measures. Beyond exploring new cultivation and processing techniques, they have introduced third-party lab testing, transparent sourcing, and educational initiatives to inform consumers. These self-imposed regulations are attempts to establish credibility and safety in an industry that lacks federal guidelines.

State Government Regulations

In the absence of federal regulation, state governments have stepped in to create frameworks for hemp-derived products. Some states have developed their own licensing and testing requirements for manufacturers.

The aim is to ensure product quality and consumer safety across the board. State-level regulations often involve rigorous product testing for potency and contaminants. This ensures products meet the standards for legal hemp-derived products.

Differing State Laws

Unfortunately, there is a wide variety of state laws regarding hemp-derived products. Some states fully embrace these products, integrating them into their legal cannabis markets.

Other states have enacted strict laws to completely eliminate or curb the sale and distribution of these products within their borders. This patchwork of regulations creates ongoing problems when it comes to balancing economics with public health and safety.

Enforcement of new state regulations presents its own set of challenges. State agencies are often under-resourced and face the complex task of policing a rapidly expanding industry. States are forced to dedicate resources to monitor compliance among a growing number of hemp businesses.

Economic Considerations

State governments also face economic pressures, as the hemp industry represents a big revenue source. Balancing the enforcement of safety standards with the promotion of economic growth has led to a variety of approaches, some favoring business development and others prioritizing consumer protection.

 

cannabis oil hemp leaves dry flowers and seeds
Understanding hemp-derived cannabinoid products is more important now than ever.

Consumer Perspectives and Education

The 2018 Farm Bill started a new era of consumer accessibility to hemp-derived products, a change that brought excitement and uncertainty. The resulting market landscape has highlighted the crucial role of consumer education when navigating this new industry.

Understanding Hemp Products

Consumers are now tasked with understanding the confusing differences between hemp-derived cannabinoid products and how they differ from other cannabis products. This includes knowledge about all the many cannabinoids, their potential benefits, risks, and the legal THC content that defines hemp.

To make matters more complicated, some companies are synthesizing cannabinoids using chemical processes with unknown health risks. Consumer need more education to guide informed decision making.

The Importance of Lab Testing

Consumers must be aware of the significance of lab testing. Products that have been third-party tested provide assurance regarding their cannabinoid content and the absence of harmful substances. Consumers should be informed about reading lab reports and understanding what makes a product safe.

Identifying Trustworthy Brands

The current hemp market has made it imperative for consumers to identify and support brands that prioritize transparency and quality. This includes brands that provide comprehensive product information, uphold good manufacturing practices, and are responsive to consumer inquiries and feedback.

The Role of Consumer Advocacy

Consumers also serve as advocates for higher standards and regulations. By demanding clarity and safety from producers and sellers, consumers can drive the industry toward tougher self-regulation.

 

Country Map USA - hemp-derived cannabinoids
More and more states are passing legislation to regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids.

The Future of Regulation and Compliance

As the dust settles from the 2018 Farm Bill’s introduction, the cannabis industry looks towards a future of potential regulation. Industry leaders and lawmakers alike anticipate moves from the FDA that could establish necessary safety protocols and standardizations. Such advancements would ensure consumer safety and support sustainable industry growth. Currently, lawmakers pass regulations on the states level. The following states have banned or regulate hemp-derived cannabinoid products:

Alaska Prohibited
Arizona Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
California Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
Colorado Prohibited
Connecticut Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
Delaware Prohibited
Idaho Prohibited
Iowa Regulated
Kentucky Regulated
Louisiana Regulated
Maryland Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
Michigan Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
Montana Prohibited
Nevada Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
New Hampshire Regulated
New York Prohibited
North Dakota Prohibited
Ohio Regulated
Oregon Prohibited
Rhode Island Prohibited
South Dakota Regulated
Tennessee Regulated
Utah Prohibited Outside Cannabis Channels
Vermont Prohibited
Virginia Regulated
Washington Prohibited

 

The following states have no regulations or have undefined regulations:

Alabama Unregulated
Arkansas Unregulated
Florida Unregulated
Georgia Unregulated
Hawaii Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
Illinois Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
Indiana Unregulated
Kansas Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
Maine Unregulated
Massachusetts Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
Mississippi Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
Missouri Unregulated
Nebraska Unregulated
New Jersey Unregulated
New Mexico Unregulated
North Carolina Unregulated
Oklahoma Unregulated
Pennsylvania Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
South Carolina Unregulated, Ban Unclear/Unenforced
Texas Unregulated
West Virginia Unregulated
Wisconsin Unregulated
Wyoming Unregulated

 

Final Thoughts

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill has significantly impacted the cannabis industry, catalyzing a boom of unregulated products in the market. The bill’s loopholes have underscored the need for safety regulations and more government and consumer education. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill will likely be remembered as a key moment for the cannabis industry. It has reshaped the trajectory of cannabis in America, signaling changes that remain to be seen.

Sources:

Where delta-8 THC is legal in the United States

What is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical

 

Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.