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Here’s how to make CBD legal once and for all

Grassroots activism empowered the Senate to defeat an anti-CBD amendment. Next up: The U.S. House.

More than 23,450 emails were sent to senators between 8 p.m. last Monday night and 10 a.m. Tuesday morning to protest an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill that would’ve outlawed CBD.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would have maintained hemp legalization but excluded CBD from the definition of industrial hemp.

“Twenty-three thousand,” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a lobbying arm for the hemp industry in Washington, D.C. “That really does make a difference. They got the word by 23,000 to nothing that people who cared about this issue wanted our senators to know that the Grassley amendment needed to be defeated.”

The farm bill—without the Grassley amendment—passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, with the full Hemp Farming Act contained therein, by a vote of 20-1, with Grassley the one nay vote. It took some dramatic arm-twisting by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to help make it happen.

“What was a speed bump turned into an exciting rallying cry,” said Miller. “On Monday night I was on the tarmac in Atlanta and got a call from Sen. McConnell’s chief of staff, who told me that Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa had filed an amendment to the farm bill that basically would’ve gutted the farm bill, would’ve excluded CBD from it, would’ve made CBD a Schedule 1 controlled substance akin to heroin. Obviously, we could not let that stand. We activated our networks.”

The farm bill will likely be passed in the full U.S. Senate and then go to the U.S. House later this summer.

“The challenge is the House and we need to be very vigilant there,” said Miller. “We got 23,000 emails to senators yesterday. If we have a crisis in the House, we’d like to have 100,000 emails.”

To be part of the grassroots activism group, which can help you quickly and easily send emails to appropriate representatives in Congress about hemp issues, go to hempsupporter.com and sign up for the free email list. 

McConnell flexes his hemp muscles

It also helped that the hemp industry’s biggest congressional champion is Sen. McConnell, whose state is second only to Colorado in hemp production. McConnell is widely regarded as the savviest, most powerful man in Congress.

“If the purpose [of the farm bill] is to legalize it for industrial uses, then the bill should do that, but it does not,” said Sen. Grassley during a discussion with Sen. McConnell last Tuesday morning. “The bill opens up legalized hemp to include ‘derivatives, extracts and cannabinoids.’ The derivatives aren’t used for industrial purposes. They’re used to make things like CBD.”

To watch the dramatic exchange between Sen. Grassley and Sen. McConnell, click here and advance to about the 2:08:00 mark. 

Grassley acknowledged that his constituents have reported “some good results” from using CBD, but he added, “How it’s handled for the safety of the individuals is very important to me.”

The World Health Organization has been examining cannabis scheduling through its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. The committee last December said the evidence does not justify the scheduling of CBD because, among other reasons, it is “generally well tolerated,” has a “good safety profile” with “no public health-related issues.”

Grassley seemed to be more concerned with the overall regulatory regime around dietary supplements, whose governing legislation, the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, was passed in 1994. Dietary supplements are regulated as foods, not pharmaceutical drugs, which is what Grassley apparently prefers and is why commentators try to note that supplements are “unregulated”—they are, just not in the same way as pharmaceuticals.

“My bill would provide assurances,” said Grassley, “that safe, responsible products are put on the shelves after the proper research and testing is done, and the necessary approvals are met.”

McConnell told Grassley that he made changes to the language of the bill to assuage his concerns.

One change clarified that the secretary of agriculture can consult with the U.S. attorney general in reviewing proposed state and tribal plans for growing hemp and in issuing guidance. Also added was language that prevents those who have been convicted of a felony drug offense from participating in the hemp industry.

“I’ve declined to include suggestions that would undercut the essential premise of the bill,” said McConnell, “namely that hemp and its derivatives should be a legal agricultural commodity just as it was in the United States for many, many years.”

The current farm bill language around hemp also includes language that is supported by the hemp industry to make the Department of Agriculture the federal agency in charge of regulating industrial hemp, as it is for every other crop, and not the Department of Justice, which is in charge of regulating drugs.

“Hemp should be allowed to flourish again in this country,” said McConnell, “especially as it did and has begun to do so again in my home state of Kentucky, overseen by state or federal departments of agriculture with appropriate safeguards, but not the Department of Justice.”

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