Why it matters: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is telling hemp farmers that they can only grow either cannabis or hemp, but not both. This poses a challenge for farmers who saw the legalization of hemp as a new opportunity for profitability, especially as some states have also legalized marijuana.
What they are saying: Farmers and industry officials argue that it doesn’t make sense to restrict farmers from growing both hemp and marijuana since they are essentially the same plant. They criticize the USDA for not considering the impact on small farmers and rural communities.
The big picture: The USDA’s decision is a consequence of the complex and varying legal landscape of marijuana at the state and federal levels. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance federally. The inconsistency in regulation has led to hesitancy among retailers to carry hemp products and a decline in hemp prices, causing many growers to give up or scale back their operations.
What to watch: The USDA’s decision to rescind hemp licenses is causing turmoil in the regulated hemp industry. It is unclear how this will ultimately impact the profitability and viability of hemp farming. Additionally, the disconnect between federal and state laws regarding cannabis continues to create unfair barriers for industry participants.
My take: The USDA’s decision seems counterproductive and unnecessarily restrictive. Allowing farmers to grow both hemp and marijuana could provide more opportunities for economic growth and job creation, especially in rural areas. The federal government should work towards aligning state and federal laws to create a more consistent and fair regulatory framework for the cannabis industry.