Big news for CBD lovers: Congress reached a deal on the Farm Bill today

Big news for CBD lovers: Congress reached a deal on the Farm Bill today

Today, the House and Senate reached a compromise on the 2018 Farm Bill. The committee seeking this compromise had been stymied until now, mainly by disagreements over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and forestry management.

Committee members disagreed on funding and work requirements for SNAP recipients. And after the recent wildfires in California, fire protection and response became a hot-button issue, too.

Now that the House and Senate have reached an agreement, the Farm Bill finally stands a chance of getting passed. Once the agreement is finalized, it will be sent to each chamber for a vote. If it passes this vote, it will head to the Oval Office, for the president’s signature. Assuming he signs it, it will replace the 2014 Farm Bill, which expired in October. The 2018 Farm Bill will finally give the cannabidiol (CBD) industry give federal approval..

The CBD industry is already flourishing across the country, despite existing in legal limbo. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to classify CBD as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). (They do make one exception for CBD in the drug Epidiolex, which recently received FDA approval.) Although it’s easy to confuse non-enforcement with legality, the sale or purchase of CBD is still a federal crime.

But if the 2018 Farm Bill finally passes, CBD will officially become legal. The language legalizing CBD comes from an unlikely source: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). For years, McConnell has been an unlikely advocate for the legalization of hemp. He helped craft the 2014 Farm Bill provision, legalizing the production of industrial hemp for research. (Industrial hemp cultivation helps his tobacco-producing home state of Kentucky.) His language in the 2018 Farm Bill goes further: it legalizes the commercial production of industrial hemp. Crucially, it also amends the CSA to exclude extracts of industrial hemp from the definition of “marihuana.” This measure will remove hemp-derived CBD from the CSA. In other words, CBD will officially be “descheduled.” (Marijuana itself will remain a Schedule I substance, like heroin.)

Can Congress actually get this done? At the end of December, departing Congress members will finish their term. In January, a new Congress will be sworn in. If the Farm Bill isn’t passed by the end of the year, it will need to be reintroduced in January, to the new Congress. The whole process will start over. There will be new disagreements, new compromises.

Earlier today, both chambers reached an uncommonly bipartisan deal. Maybe Congress will pass the 2018 Farm Bill, and CBD will finally become legal. But the clock is ticking.