WASHINGTON, DC — An attempt by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to amend the pending farm bill to allow the nation’s farmers to grow industrial hemp has failed, as the amendment will not get a vote before the Senate considers the bill this week.
Sen. Wyden introduced the amendment in late May. The amendment would have exempted hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, and would have required the federal government to respect state laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp.
Sen. Wyden said the amendment failed in part because of misconceptions about hemp in Congress and law enforcement, while advocates were unable to separate hemp from marijuana.
“Between the generational misconceptions about hemp within the Congress, continued opposition from the Drug Enforcement Agency, and no clear opportunity to vote on further Farm Bill amendments, the time is not yet ripe for industrial hemp,” Senator Wyden said in a public statement Thursday.
“Better organized advocacy on behalf of hemp, clearly separated from advocacy for cannabis,” Wyden said, “is vital to overcoming these obstacles. As we continue to build support and look for other avenues, state agricultural commissioners, farmers and business that would benefit from this legislation need to help get the facts out there and push for Congress to pass this bill.”
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The amendment language mimics the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” which remains pending as stand-alone legislation in both the House and Senate but has yet to receive a legislative hearing. Senator Wyden’s provision to the Senate’s Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.
The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
“For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Senator Wyden previously stated in support of this Act, “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”
Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of this amendment would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
Senator Wyden’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also expressed his support for this proposal.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”