WASHINGTON, D.C. – After new guidance created widespread confusion about when and where farmers can grow, research, and sell industrial hemp in the United States, U.S. Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Representatives Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Jared Polis, D-Colo., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and 14 other members of Congress today pushed three federal agencies to clarify parts of the guidance that conflict with current laws.

In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), issued a “statement of principles” to inform the public about industrial hemp grown in the United States. However, the announcement has created confusion for state agriculture departments and universities working to establish pilot programs to study the cultivation and potential commercial uses for industrial hemp. 

In addition to establishing a new definition of industrial hemp, the guidance could also have a limiting effect on sales and transportation of products made from hemp in states conducting pilot projects across the country. Currently, federal law prohibits American farmers from growing industrial hemp for commercial profit, but retail sales of products made with hemp are legal, and make up a $570 million industry annually. 

The 2014 Farm Bill allowed state agriculture departments and universities to conduct industrial hemp research pilot programs in states that have authorized the growing and production of industrial hemp, including Kentucky, Oregon, Colorado, and twenty five other states.  

“We are writing to comment on the recent progress the Administration has made with regards to industrial hemp and to urge further action to ensure that this important industry can thrive,” the members wrote in a letter to the USDA, DEA, and FDA. 

“Industrial hemp research and farming have opened doors for students, farmers, and small businesses in our states. At our universities, students and researchers are experiencing new learning opportunities, such as researching hemp for fuel, food, and clothing.” 

Paul, Wyden, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act last year to lift the federal ban on domestic farming of industrial hemp. The bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The bill now has 14 other bipartisan co-sponsors. Massie introduced the House version of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which now has 74 cosponsors, including Blumenauer and Polis. 

The letter was signed by Sens. Paul, Wyden, Merkley, Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Representatives Massie, Blumenauer, Polis, Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Eleanor Homes Norton, D-D.C., Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., John Yarmuth, D-Ky., Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., and Sam Farr, D-Calif. 

Industrial hemp is used throughout the world in thousands of products, including paper, fabrics, lotions, canvas, rope, and construction material. 

You can read the full text of the letter here


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