In 2014, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (perhaps better known as the “Farm Bill”) into law. Farm Bills are passed about every five years, with the purpose of creating and reauthorizing federal agriculture programs. However, the Farm Bill of 2014 introduced new laws regarding industrial hemp and its legal uses. The Bill specifies that industrial hemp consists of any part of the cannabis sativa plant that possess no more than a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 0.3%. In other words, industrial hemp is the low THC and therefore non-psychoactive content of the cannabis plant. Though it is derived from the same plant that produces marijuana, industrial hemp has no uses as a recreational drug.
The 2014 Farm Bill’s partial legalization of industrial hemp is incredibly significant, especially when put in context of the history of cannabis laws in the United States. For decades, U.S. federal laws did not differentiate hemp from marijuana or other cannabis plants, and all forms of cannabis were formally banned in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. Thus, the 2014 Farm Bill drastically transformed hemp’s legal standing and policy in the United States. That said, it is still important to keep in mind that the Farm Bill only permits the cultivation of industrial hemp by institutions of higher education and/or state Departments of Agriculture.