Industrial hemp, farmers, Farm Bill, food regulation, food policy

Document Type



We are at a crossroads in the regulation of industrial hemp, and the 2018 Farm Bill is the time to decide which path we will choose. Congress has an opportunity to clear the path for farmers in the US to participate in this burgeoning market. With an estimated 25,000 uses, industrial hemp is one of those rare crops that has both food and agricultural uses. There is undoubtedly a market for hemp products. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) estimates that US retail sales of hemp-based products was $688 million in 2016 – up from $573 million in 2015. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress seemingly paved the way for industrial hemp to once again be grown in the US, as it granted authority for states to create industrial hemp pilot programs. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 still precludes farmers from fully participating in these programs. DEA claims that it has authority to regulate all species of Cannabis sativa under the CSA, and does not distinguish between marijuana and industrial hemp. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress has the opportunity to clarify that the definition of marijuana does not include industrial hemp, and by doing so simultaneously clarify (and limit) the scope of DEA’s authority. In order for farmers, processors and retailers to move forward, Congress must take this action, and therefore restrict DEA’s jurisdiction to marijuana. This is the only path forward for a thriving industrial hemp industry in the US.