Farm Bill Passes House 369-47!

On Wednesday December 12, the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to pass the Farm Bill and send it to the President’s desk. The bill passed the House by a vote of 369-47. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.

Farm Bill passes Senate 87-13!

Farm Bill hemp

On Tuesday December 11, the U.S. Senate passed the 2018 Farm Bill by a vote of 87-13. The bill includes provisions which legalize commercial hemp farming. 

The Farm Bill  will fully remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and moves federal regulatory authority to the USDA. The bill also includes funding and authorization for research and authorizes crop insurance. 

The definition of hemp in the Farm Bill is more comprehensive that previously and includes all parts of the plant. Its specifically lists cannabinoids and clearly removes hemp extracts containing CBD from control under the CSA. 

Gov. Ducey signs Arizona hemp bill into law, state is the 39th to legalize hemp farming

On Monday May 14, 2018, Gov. Ducey signed SB 1098 into law. The bill authorizes hemp pilot programs and research under the Farm Bill. Arizona should have hemp pilot programs starting in 2019 depending on how quickly the AZ Dept. of Agriculture creates the regulations for the hemp program. Arizona becomes the 39th state to define hemp and authorize pilot programs and research on hemp. 

The bill signing was a historic moment for hemp advocates around the state. Gov. Ducey had vetoed a similar bill last session due to funding concerns. The legislature worked to address the funding issue and this time the Governor welcomed the chance to allow Arizona farmers to participate in the growing market for hemp products. 

Special thanks goes out to Sen. Lisa Otondo and Sen. Sonny Borelli who lead the effort and Arizona hemp business owner Michael Stoltz for his testimony and persistence in pushing for the bill. Thanks also to the other farmers, businesses and advocates who spoke at hearings and educated legislators on the potential benefits for the state.

Hemp in the Farm Bill, what does it mean?

When Congress passed the Farm Bill of 2014, it included Sec. 7606 authorizing state regulated research pilot programs with hemp. That program has been a huge success growing to include over 3,500 licensed participants who planted more than 77,000 acres in 2018. At the same time, the U.S. market for hemp products has grown to more than $800 million as of 2017. However, hemp pilot program regulations are burdensome and are made even more challenging by heavy handed Drug Enforcement Administration oversight. Vote Hemp, along with thousands of businesses and advocates, have been pushing for commercial hemp farming legislation and removal of roadblocks to the growth of the U.S. hemp industry.

Congress has been negotiating a new Farm Bill and is once again considering federal policy regarding hemp thanks to leadership from Senator McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Wyden (D-OR). The House and Senate each passed their versions of the bill and the Senate version included language from the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 that removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allows farmers to grow hemp commercially under a state or federal license.

What will the new Farm Bill hemp law do?

  • Define industrial hemp broadly to cover all parts of the Cannabis plant including seeds, derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids etc as long as it has a THC level of 0.3% or less
  • Remove hemp completely from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)
  • Make USDA the sole federal regulatory agency overseeing hemp cultivation
  • Include native American tribes which were not explicitly included in Sec. 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill
  • Authorize and fund hemp research as part of the Supplemental and Alternative Crops program and the Critical Agricultural Materials Act
  • Authorize federal crop insurance for hemp
  • Require USDA to develop federal regulations for hemp farming that may be used in states that choose not to be the primary regulator
  • Require states wishing to have primary regulatory authority to submit a plan for regulation to USDA that meets minimum requirements
  • Repeals Sec. 7606 hemp research program 1 year after USDA establishes federal regulations for hemp farming
  • Require USDA to conduct a study of state hemp agricultural pilot programs

If the Farm Bill is signed into law before the end of 2018, it will go into effect beginning on January 1, 2019. However, it will take time for the new law to be implemented. In states where hemp is legal, state departments of agriculture will need to submit regulatory plans to USDA for approval. Section 7606 does not expire until 1 year after the USDA creates optional regulations for states that choose not to develop programs. This means existing state programs are still valid. However, we urge states to move promptly to create and submit new state regulations to USDA once the Farm Bill is signed into law.

There are a few minimum requirements that a state plan must have:

  • a practice to maintain relevant information regarding land on which hemp is produced, including a legal description of the land
  • a procedure for testing the crop
  • a procedure for conducting annual inspection (limited to one per year)
  • a procedure for the effective disposal of products that are produced in violation
  • a procedure to comply with the enforcement procedures
  • a certification that the State or Indian tribe has the resources and personnel to carry out the requirements

The USDA will have 60 days to respond with an approval or a reason why the proposed plan doesn’t meet the minimum requirements. If denied, a state can revise and resubmit their plan.

What about hemp extracts containing CBD?
The Farm Bill removes hemp completely from the CSA. It makes is 100% clear that cannabinoids are included so hemp derived CBD will not be a controlled substance. The bill does not change requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act so producers are still subject to FDA regulations. The FDA has stated in an FAQ that it is their current opinion that CBD may not be sold as a dietary supplement but they have not said that whole plant hemp extracts are covered. Their logic is that a previous application for the drug Epidiolex prohibits the sale of the same substance as a dietary supplement. But Epidiolex is pure CBD and is not the same as a whole plant hemp extract. The industry does not agree with FDAs stance on CBD and there will likely be further developments on this.

Oklahoma Farmers Celebrate First Industrial Hemp Harvest Since WWII

GUTHRIE, Oklahoma – A few Oklahoma farmers are harvesting the state’s first industrial hemp crops since World War II. Governor Mary Fallin legalized the plant with an emergency order in April, and now one Guthrie farm aims to use their plants to help others.

In a year full of legislative debate, one issue had almost all lawmakers in agreement. There was only one no vote before the governor signed industrial hemp into law.

Representative Mickey Dollens (D-Oklahoma City) says, “There are thousands of different uses for this, and from that comes new small businesses and sales tax, which helps our economy grow.” – Oklahoma City, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Herb’s Herbs celebrate their first hemp harvest Thursday afternoon by inviting News 9 into their Guthrie greenhouse of 4,000 plants, but success did not come without some growing pains.

As part of the state’s pilot program, Herb’s Herbs is working with Langston University to study the best practices for growing before the plant goes mainstream. Co-owner Jesse Tischauser admits their initial yield was not ideal. He says, “You spread 10,000 seeds, or $5,000 worth of seed on your field and only get 30%, that’s not going to make a lot of farmers happy.”

The Guthrie group has improved its product over the months, but is still developing ways to produce more hemp per plant. The purpose of this first harvest is not commercial use. Instead, Herb’s Herbs just wants to educate other farmers who are interested in joining the industry.

“As a business, what we hope to do is be able to supply farmers with starter plants, seedlings, clones and eventually seed,” explains Tischauser.

Farmers have about five months before the next crops are planted, so now is the time to ask questions.

“What they’re trying to do is find a rotational crop that will go in between their winter wheat,” Tischauser says, “and the beauty of hemp is it actually helps rejuvenate the soil.”

Next year, you can expect to see much more from this budding industry. Herb’s Herbs is also planning to get into the medical marijuana industry once they perfect their hemp formula.

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Vote Hemp Newsletter

Last week voters went to the polls in record numbers and they decided to make a course correction. Republican’s held onto their majority in the Senate but Democrats gained the majority in the House for the 116th Congress which begins in January. This means that there will need to be more bipartisanship to get things done over the next two years.

We have been hopeful that a new Farm Bill would be passed this year but hopes began to fade when negotiations stalled prior to the mid-term elections. Staff discussions continued while members were campaigning but all indications were that other priorities might keep hemp from being legalized this year.

This week we received some good news that negotiations were back on and there was an urgency to reach agreement on a new Farm Bill. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said today that farm bill negotiators are “very close” to striking a deal and are working on a nutrition title that blends ideas from the House and Senate bills.

“We’re close now; we’re closer than we’ve ever been before,” the Kansas Republican said, adding: “I’m very happy about the progress we’ve made.”

We at Vote Hemp are very encouraged by Chairman Roberts comments and believe we will know by tomorrow if an agreement is reached. There isn’t much time left in the lame duck session so negotiators need to agree on a conference report this week in order to get it approved by the House and the Senate before Congress adjourns for the year.

We also received some good news from Majority Leader McConnell who has been championing hemp in the Senate and as a conferee. “If there’s a Farm Bill, it’ll be in there, I guarantee that,” he told reporters on Friday when asked about hemp.

Based on this weeks developments, we are feeling very positive about the prospects for a Farm Bill agreement that will legalize commercial hemp farming. We will keep you posted as things develop.

Eric Steenstra

Eric Steenstra

Wittenberg farm joins first hemp harvest in decades after changes to state law

WITTENBERG – Hemp farmers know it’s almost time to harvest when mourning doves show up to eat the seeds.

That’s one of many lessons Mike Omernik and Deb Tanis have learned this year growing the first hemp crop on their Wittenberg farm.

The couple is part of Wisconsin’s new research pilot program for industrial hemp that brought back a once-common crop after growth was banned for decades. Hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant but contains very little THC, the active ingredient in pot that produces a high.

Omernik was looking for an alternative crop because corn wasn’t making the farm money, and he became interested in hemp. They applied for a license from the state in March and planted it in June. Now, it’s time to harvest their 35 to 37 acres of the plant.

“It’s a different experience,” Omernik said. “Sometimes you just got to give it a shot, see what we get.”

Wisconsin hemp farming

Wisconsin was once the second-largest producer of hemp in the United States, according to a 1918 report from the University of Wisconsin, growing 7,000 of the country’s 42,000 acres in 1917. The crop was grown primarily in Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Dodge and Racine counties.

But according to Purdue University’s Hemp Project, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1938 halted hemp production in the United States. And the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 classifies all forms of marijuana, including hemp, as a Schedule I drug.

The plant came back into the fold in 2014 when the federal government permitted states to allow growth under pilot programs with universities or state agricultural departments. The measure also distinguishes hemp from marijuana, defining it as a plant with less than 0.3 percent THC.

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation paving the way for hemp’s return to Wisconsin. Under the state law, plants can’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC. The state won’t limit acreage or the number of licenses issued.

State Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, said farmers enrolled in the program must submit a research plan and pass a background check to ensure they don’t have a history of controlled substance use. They also need to provide the GPS coordinates of where the plants will be located.

The program received more than 250 applications for its first year, Testin said, a number he anticipates will grow going forward due to high interest in hemp.

“I think this is going to be transformational for the ag industry in this state, and I think within a few years Wisconsin will once again be a national leader in industrial hemp,” he said.

Growing hemp has been a learning process for Omernik and Tanis, and their biggest challenge was an absence of information. They couldn’t seek advice from other farmers in the state because names are kept private. Still, it’s a fun experience, Tanis said.

The couple hopes to yield between 800 and 1,000 pounds from the crop and, from there, make hemp oil and potentially biodiesel. Their plans have changed over the past few months as they’ve discovered more uses for hemp.

And Tanis emphasized that marijuana and hemp are nothing alike, despite being from the same family. People can smoke the whole field and it won’t impact them, she said.

“It’s like having a German Shepherd and a chihuahua,” she said. “They’re both canines, but they are totally different animals.”

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Hemp will be cropping up on R.I. farms

Beginning Oct. 9, Rhode Island farmers can apply for a state license to grow hemp — a non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana — as part of a federal research pilot program. Growers see profit potential in the plant’s CBD component, which has a number of medical uses.

A plant that resembles marijuana growing in tall, tight rows may be rustling over acres of Rhode Island fields next summer. But before drive-by bandits get any ideas, know this:

You really can’t get high on industrial hemp.

Beginning Oct. 9, Rhode Island farmers can apply for a state license to grow hemp. In so doing, they will become part a national resurgence of a cannabis plant used for centuries until it was swept up with its illicit cousin, marijuana, in the U. S. war on drugs decades ago and labeled a controlled substance.

Rhode Island hemp growersWhile hemp remains one of the world’s most versatile agricultural products — used in everything from food and clothing to building supplies and replenishing soil — its emerging medicinal potential is what’s attracting investors and pharmaceutical companies, experts say.

CBD, a component found in the extracted oils of both hemp and marijuana, is increasingly being used for pain, inflammation and nausea. But because hemp has very low concentrations (less than 1 percent) of THC, the mind-altering component in marijuana, the federal government is now considering legalizing it.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a CBD-based oral solution to reduce seizures with two rare forms of epilepsy in young children. It was the first time federal health regulators had approved a drug found in marijuana.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced that it will no longer consider products with less than 0.03 percent THC a controlled substance.

And Congress is weighing a farm bill, championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would reclassify hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled drugs.

The recent events have ”opened the doors” to the possibility of hemp becoming “a new industry,” says Norman Birenbaum, Rhode Island’s top medical marijuana regulator, who helped craft Rhode Island’s new hemp regulations.

“I think the fastest-growing facet of the market … is based around the CBD products,” he says.

Until 2014, no one could grow hemp in the United States without a permit from the DEA, says Eric Steenstra, president of the Washington D.C.-based hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp. But by last year, 25,713 acres of hemp were growing in 19 states under a federal research pilot program designed to allow farmers to study ways of growing hemp and experimenting with its uses.

Rhode Island’s farmers will operate under the same pilot program.

The Department of Business Regulation (DBR) received about two dozen comments recently on its new hemp regulations. Most came from potential growers who noted the medicinal potential of CBD.

But many said the new rules seem too restrictive and expensive, and needlessly mirror the state’s tight controls on medical marijuana.

The requirements include a $2,500 license fee, criminal background checks of growers, laboratory testing of hemp plants to ensure they don’t have more than 0.03 percent THC, and a tagging and tracking system of what is sold — similar to medical marijuana.

“I don’t have to pay to grow corn or arugula, and neither of those get me high,” Matt Tracy, who runs the five-acre Red Planet Vegetable Farm, in Johnston, said in an interview.

Tracy, who was approached last year by a CBD investor asking if he’d be willing to grow hemp, said the regulations restrict whom farmers can sell to and include complicated packaging, labeling and security requirements that most farmers aren’t equipped to meet.

Hemp is a “very high valued crop” that could help struggling Rhode Island farmers remain on expensive farmland, said Tracy. But he’s not sure he wants to jump through all the hoops.

Lawyer Matthew T. Jerzyk submitted written comments for a client he later identified for The Journal as American Standard Hemp, a “Warwick-based company founded by a group of Rhode Islanders with a goal of building a coalition of Rhode Island farms to grow hemp and extract CBD.”

In his comments, Jerzyk said the regulations “look nothing like our neighbors in New England and, if implemented, would kill the market in Rhode Island causing my client to most certainly leave after spending more than a year lining up significant investments and a business plan.”

DBR regulators did make some changes to the regulations based on the comments they heard. But they say some of the details the farmers oppose were written into the hemp law the General Assembly passed in 2016 and therefore can’t be amended through regulation.

In an email to The Journal on Thursday, Jerzyk said the DBR had “positively responded and made numerous changes to the regulations that my client supported.”

For more than 10 years, Rhode Island farmers have been asking the state Department of Environmental Management for permission to grow hemp, knowing the plant was an excellent cover crop for replenishing tired soil.

But whenever DEM officials asked their federal agricultural counterparts for guidance, they were told any state action that contradicts federal law could cost Rhode Island federal money, said a DEM spokesman. And so those requests were denied.

Richmond turf farmer John Partyka has for years experimented with rotating different crops through his hundreds of South County acres to help preserve his soil. “Turf is a depletion process,” said his daughter Sarah. “A little bit of soil goes down the road with every harvest.”

As stewards of the land, they see the current chance to grow hemp worth considering, she said.

“If it has both a medicinal purpose as well as something that would be a good crop for the land, we would definitely be interested in learning more about it.”

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Iowa Senate OKs bill opening door to hemp production, marketing

The production and marketing of industrial hemp would be authorized in Iowa in compliance with federal law under a bipartisan bill passed Wednesday by the Iowa Senate.

The Senate approved Senate File 2398, titled the “Iowa Industrial Hemp Act,” on a 49-0 vote, sending the measure to the House.

Iowa Hemp Law

Supporters of industrial hemp have long touted its production in Iowa. Tens of thousands of acres of hemp were raised in Iowa during World War II. The plant can be used in a wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, animal feed, food, and beverages.

The Iowa Legislative Services Agency said the bill responds to action by Congress that allows universities and state agriculture departments to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes of research in an agricultural pilot program. The federal bill also specifies that participating states must enact laws to allow for the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp.

Both Republicans and Democrats praised the bill. Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, said he’s been trying to pass similar legislation since the late 1990s, and Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, suggested that hemp offers the types of opportunities for Iowa farmers that they have received from growing soybeans.

“There are a lot of possibilities out there, and we just need to get out of our own way,” Shipley said.

While hemp and marijuana products both come from the cannabis plant, experts say hemp is typically distinguished by its use, physical appearance and lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The bill was amended by the Senate to specify that the industrial hemp must be regularly tested to ensure it does not exceed allowable THC levels.

In addition, the legislation specifies that industrial hemp may not be used to produce medical cannabidiol, a cannabis compound with medical benefits.

The bill creates two state initiatives: the Industrial Hemp Commodity Program, administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Industrial Hemp Production Program, administered by a Board of Regents institution.

In addition, the legislation creates an industrial hemp council comprised of public members and representatives of government entities, and four nonvoting legislative members. The Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is required to submit an annual report evaluating the success of the two programs.

Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, said he looks forward to Gov. Kim Reynolds signing the legislation.

“Everyone in the Legislature talks about supporting rural areas and small towns in this state. I think that this would be a big step toward,” Kinney said.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, who is an economist at Iowa State University, said Iowa needs to develop new agricultural products and new markets.

“The days of $7 corn have long disappeared,” he said, referring to per bushel commodity prices. He added, “Industrial hemp would be appropriate.”

Thirty-four states have passed legislation related to the production of industrial hemp and 27 states have passed laws creating or allowing for the establishment of industrial hemp research plots or pilot programs to study the cultivation, processing, and economics of industrial hemp, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Vote Hemp Newsletter


The New York Times asked a provocative question in the latest issue of their Sunday Magazine: Why is CBD everywhere?

The answer from our perspective: Because it works!

The highlighting of CBD products by the New York Times reflects the mainstreaming of CBD products and provides a boost to the hemp industry.

It is incredible how many different CBD products are now available and the mainstream exposure will certainly attract bigger players to the market. We recommend you check it out.



New Observations Magazine is an independent, non-profit contemporary arts journal that is written edited and published by the arts community. Our good friend Mia Feroleto recently published issue #131 which focused on industrial hemp and features a number of articles by and about the hemp industry.

The issue features an incredible cover photo of Alex White Plume taken by fine-art photographer Mitch Epstein.

Print copies of the magazine are scarce (we have a few for donors of $50 or more) but we are offering you the chance to New Observations: Industrial Hemp Superhero Savior of Humanity copy of New Observations for FREE.



Prospects for passage of a new Farm Bill this year are not good. Negotiations stalled in September over SNAP work requirements and several other issues. The good news is that the Hemp Farming Act provision included in the Senate version of the bill has not been a sticking point. There was some hope that negotiations could resume after the mid-term election but that now seems unlikely due to the need to pass hurricane relief legislation during the short lame duck session.

Congress will likely pass a continuing resolution to keep the existing Farm Bill provisions in place for a period of time. Then the legislation will have to be taken up again in the 116th Congress staring in January. If the Democrats win control of the House, there is a good chance they will pass a different bill, likely similar to the current Senate version.

Nobody knows for sure but it won’t likely be in the first few months of the year. The legislative process starts over and it will take months until the bills are passed again in the House and Senate and then a new Conference Committee will be chosen to restart negotiations. The last Farm Bill was more than a year late making it to the Presidents desk. Hopefully this one will be resolved more quickly.

Vote Hemp has been working with the Drug Policy Alliance and several hemp advocacy groups to push for removal of a drug felon ban that was added to the legislation in the Farm Bill. This ban would disallow anyone who had a previous drug felony conviction from participating in hemp farming or processing. We feel that it is wrong to punish someone again after they have paid their debt to society. This restriction also would negatively affect states which don’t have such a ban in place such as Colorado.

Vote Hemp helped lead a stakeholder letter to Farm Bill conferees asking that they remove the felon ban. We also created an action alert for conferees which has generated thousands of letters. If you haven’t yet sent an alert, please do so now.

We will keep you updated with any Farm Bill developments.