U.S. hemp bill won’t affect Kentucky farmers much, UK researcher says


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Dalton Stokes

In December, President Trump signed a bill that would end the federal ban on hemp that spanned almost a century. This has been a widely contested ban since its creation but information around the ban and hemp itself aren’t exactly common knowledge.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was passed into law on December 20, 2018, after being worked out in congress for quite some time. The bill made a wide variety of small changes to our legislation regarding agriculture by replacing the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2014, but the change to legislation regarding hemp is arguably the most substantial change made by the bill.

This bill effectively reverses regulation put in place with the Controlled Substances Act by removing industrial hemp from the definition of “marihuana.” This leaves the states open to regulate or explore this industry as they see fit.

It is easy recognize these things, but it isn’t so clear what this means for the average American. The ban on hemp has spanned such a long time period that there has been very little scientific research into it until about the last two decades. Because of this the general populous has not had much access to information regarding hemp and its properties.

 The term “hemp” is much different than what is commonly referred to when people think of Cannabis or marijuana. According to UK’s David Williams, who researches “optimizing yields of the harvestable components of hemp,” hemp and marijuana are both the plant species Cannabis Sativa L. but hemp by definition is a cannabis plant with less than 0.399% THC content.

THC is the very mild psychoactive compound in marijuana that results in its euphoric effects.  Any cannabis plant containing a THC content of over 0.399% is considered marijuana and is federally banned.

Another name that is commonly thrown around is CBD. CBD is another cannabinoid found in pretty much all cannabis plants that is linked to many of the medicinal qualities of cannabis. The 2018 Farm Bill also took CBD off the list of controlled substances which makes it much easier to acquire. Some companies like advertise the “amazing” medicinal qualities of CBD, but most of these are hyperbole as they are yet to be fully scientifically explored. It is also important to emphasize that CBD is in no way an intoxicant. It gives no “high” or sense of euphoria like THC.

Aside from its chemical uses, hemp also has many other applications.

“Hemp is grown for fiber (used in industrial applications like plastics and other molded, injected products, as insulation and other building materials like particle board), for food as either whole seeds or seeds with the hulls removed, or as pressed oil from the seeds, or as a source of cannabinoid,” Williams said.

Cannabinoids, Williams said, are “plant-generated molecules like capsaicin in peppers or nicotine in tobacco.” The human body also make cannabinoids called endocannabinoids. These compounds interact with the human body through cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Kentucky, being the agricultural state that it is, is one of the nation’s top producers of hemp even before the 2018 Farm Bill. This is why, Williams said, that the federal legalization “won’t affect Kentucky farmers very much.”