As the Cannabis industry booms, the most common question remains. Is Hemp Illegal in the United States? Whether you are a producer, consumer, or retailer of hemp, it is important to keep its legality in check. The legal status of cannabis products is extremely important to know. That is of course for anyone involved in the production process from seed to shelf!
The answer is no hemp is not illegal in the entire United States, rather states are legalizing it one after another. By the end of 2018, the law legalizing hemp was official. Up till now, 33 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation, and 20 have passed a bill regarding hemp.
Currently, the United States is an upcoming force in the world Hemp market. 7% of the US population falls in the category of being active Hemp users. That number is to increase to 10% gradually. The US market alone could reach over 16 billion in sales by 2025.
This is mainly due to the change in the law; in December of 2018. The farm bill passed in late 2018 made Hemp products legal under the condition that their THC content is below 0.3%. Any hemp product found above the legal dosage would not be allowed for production, retail, or consumption. Although the history of cannabis was not always this way for the U.S. It took a long path to reach this goal to legality.
Hemp Declared as Legal in the United States
It is legal to purchase and consume certain CBD products in all 50 states. The government classifies hemp as any plant of the cannabis family that contains less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the’high’ or the psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
After the legalization of hemp, it is making strides in many places around the US. However, its legal status remains unclear. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies hemp as illegal, although it does not go after anyone using or possessing it.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still considers it a drug. Therefore, it categorizes hemp as illegal to be put in foods and or health products. All food production process still require FDA approval.
After the hemp legalization bill passed, the commissioner of FDA issued a statement, claiming that their stance on the matter had not changed. According to the FDA, CBD companies must obtain approval from the FDA.
It has been reported that the FDA has begun cracking down on companies selling CBD products and has sent them warning letters.
The Beginning of Hemp Usage in the United States
The United States was using Cannabis as early as 1619. Landowners began growing and exporting hemp plants to support the cause of England. Later, the colonists grew it to expand it to the US.
Cultivation of cannabis has played a central role in the establishment of the United States. So much so, that cannabis leaf made an appearance on the ten-dollar bill as late as 1900. Around the same time, attempts to regulate the sale of pharmaceuticals began.
Most laws were on a state-to-state basis. These laws included penalties for mislabeling and adulterating drugs and improper sale of those considered “poisons.” Poison laws generally either required indication on the packaging about the harmful effects of these drugs.
They also prohibited sale outside of licensed pharmacies and without a doctor’s prescription. If a pharmacy did not retail the drug, then it came under the classification of “poison.” Such drugs required labels. Sale to minors and refills were also prohibited.
Some pharmaceutical laws individually listed the drugs that came under the effect of the regulations, while others left the matter to medical experts. Those that did include references to cannabis either under the category of “cannabis and its preparations” or “hemp and its preparations.”
In 1905, a bulletin announcement from the United States Department of Agriculture listed twenty-nine states with laws mentioning cannabis. Most of the states did not consider marijuana a “poison” but required it to be labeled.
The Prohibition of Hemp
By 1853, recreational hemp had another name. It was also a “fashionable narcotic.” By the 1880s, oriental-style cannabis parlors had begun to flourish alongside opium dens. They multiplied in numbers to such a point that every major city on the East Coast had one.
The use of hemp increased to a great extent. According to the reports, Mexican soldiers had started to use hemp cigarettes by the year of 1874. Due to the obvious downsides of cannabis and its rapid growth, states which excluded cannabis from poison laws made countless attempts to include it.
This still raises the question, why was hemp banned in the US? Eventually, in 1937, The Marihuana Tax Act effectively declared possession or transfer of Marihuana illegal throughout the United States under federal law. However, an exception for medical and industrial uses, through the imposition of an excise tax on all sales of hemp.
This pushed the hemp industry into an economic slump. This downfall lasted decades until scientific research surfaced about the product.
Is Hemp Illegal in the United States Now?
In 1973 Oregon was the first state to reduce the penalty for up to one ounce to a $100 fine. This was followed by five more states in 1975, followed by another five, by the end of 1978. This was also the first wave of legalization of hemp.
In 1975, Robert Randall, a Washington D.C. resident, was arrested for cultivating cannabis. Randall, over time, noticed that cannabis relieved the symptoms of his glaucoma justified his use of drugs by employing a medical necessity defense at trial. The court dismissed the charges against Randall.
Randall became the first person to receive cannabis from the government after ensuring a petition filed with the FDA. Soon after, the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program allowed patients with serious medical conditions to receive a regular supply of cannabis.
Nevada happened to be the first state in over two decades to decriminalize cannabis in 2001. The following years, major states began to decriminalize cannabis or make enforcement laws their lowest priority. This was the beginning of the second wave of legalization of hemp.
By 2014, Colorado and Washington, followed by Alaska and Oregon, had legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Vermont legalized hemp in January 2018 through an act of the legislature, as opposed to ballot initiative with the previous eight states.
Nonetheless, the road to hemp legalization in the US was a long and worthy success.