The Farm Bill's Impact on the Hemp and Cannabis Industries: Boom or Bust?

Gabriela Tan
June 10, 2024

THC and CBD products seem to be almost everywhere these days – from retail stores to gas stations. These products are created from cannabinoids found in hemp and are completely legal thanks to the Farm Bill. However, the unregulated hemp industry is calling the safety of these intoxicating properties into question. This has led lawmakers to put hemp back under the spotlight to reevaluate its declassification as a controlled substance, resulting in the proposed Farm Bill 2024 amendment. 

In this article, we’ll explore the Farm Bill and the proposed amendment, and how these changes could potentially affect the hemp and cannabis industries. 

What Is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill is a piece of legislation that sets crucial policies for American agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry. The main goals of these policies are to ensure a stable food supply, support farmers and rural communities, and promote sustainable agricultural practices. Beyond the policies, the Farm Bill also covers a wide range of programs, including crop insurance, food assistance programs like SNAP, rural development, and agricultural research. It’s normally renewed every five years to incorporate changing needs and updated budget constraints. 

Why Was the Farm Bill Created? 

The first Farm Bill, also known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act, was enacted as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1933 during the Great Depression as a response to the agricultural crisis. During this time, American farmers faced severe droughts and rock-bottom crop prices. The initial goal of the Farm Bill was to provide financial relief to farmers and stabilize food prices to ensure a reliable food supply. Measures like price supports, supply control programs, and conservation initiatives were used to boost farmers’ incomes and protect the environment. 

Over time, the Farm Bill has evolved to cover a broader range of issues, but it stays true to its core mission of supporting American agriculture and rural communities. 

What Is the Proposed Farm Bill Amendment? 

Currently, hemp-derived cannabinoids are technically legal and producers are operating in a gray area. The Farm Bill 2024 amendment, proposed by Republican Representative Mary Miller for Illinois, would redefine hemp, making any hemp-derived THC or CBD federally banned. 

Jars of CBD oils and creams are on display behind a shop's window.

When Was Hemp Federally Legalized? 

The hemp plant was federally legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. It was removed from the list of controlled substances as long as the plant had no more than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis. However, hemp processors have found a loophole around this. They can extract the delta-9 THC from hemp plants and infuse products with concentrated amounts of it while still meeting the “dry-weight basis” limitations. 

Who Will Be Impacted by the Farm Bill 2024 Amendment?

If the Farm Bill 2024 amendment is passed, the redefinition of hemp would cause major disruptions to the hemp-derived cannabinoid industry, which is estimated to be worth $28.4 billion. Thanks to the loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, these products are widely available across the U.S. at gas stations, retail stores, and even online, regardless of whether cannabis is legal at the state level. The amendment would prevent the production, sale, and distribution across state lines of hemp-derived cannabinoid products.

Will the Farm Bill 2024 Amendment Impact Cannabis Sales in Legalized States?

No, the Farm Bill 2024 amendment will not impact cannabis sales in legalized states. Hemp and cannabis are treated as different plants under the eyes of the law, meaning the regulations pertaining to each of them are separate. 

Customers are lined up to purchase cannabis from an up-scale dispensary.

What Products Are Made of Hemp? 

Hemp is a versatile plant that can be used for many different products, including textiles and food. The long, strong hemp fibers create breathable and sustainable textile products since the plant uses 50% less water than cotton and doesn’t need pesticides to grow. In food products, hemp seeds and hemp seed oils are a great source of Omega fatty acids and proteins. 

Beyond the use of hemp in staple items, cannabinoids can be extracted from the plant and infused in certain products to mimic the effects of cannabis. 

Cannabinoids Found in Hemp

The two main cannabinoids found in hemp are:

  • THC: Short for tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is a psychoactive ingredient in the hemp plant that gives someone that “high” feeling. There are two main types of THC:
    • Delta-8: Delta-8 THC is typically manufactured from hemp-derived CBD since there’s only a small amount that can be found in cannabis plants. While it still has psychoactive properties, it’s generally less potent than delta-9 THC.
    • Delta-9: Delta-9 THC is extracted directly from the hemp plant rather than manufactured, and has more potent psychoactive properties than delta-8 THC. 
  • CBD: Short for cannabidiol, CBD is an ingredient in the hemp plant that has pain-relieving properties without that “high” feeling. It can provide relief for a variety of conditions, including migraines, anxiety, depression, seizures, insomnia, and more. 

In addition to THC and CBD, hemp also produces three minor cannabinoids, which are CBC (cannabichromene), CBG (cannabigerol), and CBN (cannabinol). 

Popular CBD and THC Products

The CBD and THC that are extracted and produced from hemp is then made into several different products, such as:

  • Gummies
  • Drinks
  • Oils
  • Creams
  • Pills
  • Patches

Four glass bottles of cannabis-infused sparkling water are on a table, ready for serving.

When Will the Farm Bill Amendment Take Effect?

At the time of this writing, the Farm Bill draft is still in the early stages. The summaries released in May by the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Agriculture Committee did not address any intoxicating hemp products. Only industrial hemp was mentioned, which included lowering the regulatory barriers for industrial hemp farmers. 

As of now, there is no exact timeline for when this amendment will take effect, nor is it known whether intoxicating hemp products will even make it into the final draft of the next Farm Bill. 

Final Thoughts on the Farm Bill 2024 Amendment

All in all, the Farm Bill’s impact on the hemp and cannabis industries remains uncertain. The 2018 Farm Bill created a “gray area” in the hemp market that represents an unfair advantage against licensed cannabis companies that face strict regulations and high taxes. These hemp-derived THC and CBD products often have misleading packaging, leading to the 2024 proposed amendment for these intoxicating properties to be banned. While it’s hard to tell for certain what will happen next with the Farm Bill, we can expect concerns surrounding the safety of unregulated hemp-derived cannabinoid products to remain a controversial issue.

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June 2024


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