Cannabis legalization efforts took one tiny step forward this month via the addition of several marijuana-related provisions to the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill, which President Trump signed into law. Despite the President declaring his administration has the ability to ignore protections Congress put in place for legal cannabis businesses, the provisions signal broader support for the hemp industry as well as cannabinoid research.
Schedule I Status for Cannabis Under Scrutiny
One provision that should bode well for the cannabis industry as a whole is the request for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to “provide a brief report on the barriers to research that result from the classification of drugs and compounds as Schedule I substances” under federal law within 120 days.
The Schedule I status that marijuana currently holds ranks it alongside heroin and LSD in terms of its danger to society. NIDA has previously indicated its support for removing cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances and that its current designation impedes research efforts.
Studies into Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids to Increase, Regulatory Framework Takes Hold
Other science-minded provisions include the appropriation of $1 million in grants to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study both cannabidiol (CBD) and kratom as alternatives to opioids. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health have been tasked to “consider additional investment in studying the medicinal effects and toxicology of cannabidiol and cannabigerol (CBG).”
$2 million was also set aside for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement regulations for hemp-derived CBD. 2019 was a shaky year for the hemp industry after the FDA sent strongly-worded letters to several major CBD brands chiding them for allegedly making health claims.
The lack of federal oversight into cannabidiol products has been a major issue, one that this provision intends to mitigate through, “research, policy evaluation, market surveillance, issuance of an enforcement discretion policy, and appropriate regulatory activities with respect to products under the jurisdiction of the FDA which contain CBD and meet the definition of hemp,” lawmakers said.
Domestic Hemp Program to Improve
Separate legislation earmarked $16.5 million for the implementation of a domestic hemp program. The program was initiated in the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively legalized hemp cultivation and production. An additional $1 million will go towards revenue protection insurance for hemp farmers, something that was desperately needed this past season when early frosts hurt crops nationwide.
“Hemp producers across the country are looking to Kentucky for our expertise and leadership with this exciting crop, and I’m committed to helping our farmers, processors and manufacturers take full advantage of hemp’s potential,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared in a press release. “These federal resources will help us continue our progress to ensuring hemp is treated just like every other legal commodity.”
Senator McConnell has long pushed for hemp reform, but has shied away from supporting full cannabis legalization. However, he did engage in several meetings with cannabis and hemp industry figures last October, signalling an effort to pass the proverbial olive branch.