Hemp Legalization Bill Fast-Tracked By US Senate

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was placed on a fast-track through the U.S. Senate on Monday, allowing it to skip the typical committee hurdles that newly-announced bills ordinarily face.

Truth in Media reported last month that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had introduced the bill along with bipartisan cosponsors Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The proposal would legalize hemp by eliminating its status as a controlled substance. It would also allow the cultivation and sale of hemp, creating an industrial marketplace. Additionally, it would let scientists apply for Agriculture Department grants for research into hemp and farmers obtain crop insurance for hemp crops.

Michael Koempel of the Congressional Research Service, describing how fast-tracking works in the U.S. Senate, wrote:

When a Senator introduces a bill or joint resolution, or a House-passed bill or joint resolution is received in the Senate from the House, the measure is often referred to committee, pursuant to provisions of Senate Rules XIV, XVII, and XXV. The Senate may, however, use provisions of Senate Rule XIV to bypass referral of a bill or joint resolution to a Senate committee, and have the measure placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business. Although placing a bill or joint resolution directly on the calendar does not guarantee that the full Senate will ever consider it, the measure is available for floor consideration and certain procedural steps or requirements may be obviated. Such procedural steps include committee reporting or discharging a committee from a bill’s consideration, and such procedural requirements include the two-day availability of a committee report.

A spokesperson for Senator McConnell told The Hill that the majority leader has yet to announce when the bill will be taken up for a vote.

“I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which will build upon the success of the hemp pilot programs and spur innovation and growth within the industry. By legalizing hemp and empowering states to conduct their own oversight plans, we can give the hemp industry the tools necessary to create jobs and new opportunities for farmers and manufacturers around the country,” Senator McConnell said in a statement.

Senator Wyden, a Democrat and cosponsor of the bill, wrote in a statement, “It is far past time for Congress to pass this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to end the outrageous anti-hemp, anti-farmer and anti-jobs stigma that’s been codified into law and is holding back growth in American agriculture jobs and our economy at large. Hemp products are made in this country, sold in this country and consumed in this country. Senator McConnell, our colleagues and I are going to keep pushing to make sure that if Americans can buy hemp products at the local supermarket, American farmers can grow hemp in this country.”

Congressman James Comer (R-Ky.) is set to introduce a companion hemp legalization bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.