Agriculture Improvement Act Opens Door to Hemp Cultivation

Expect more hemp fabric to come from the United States.

Under the recently passed Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, signed by the Trump administration, hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, which was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970.

By declassifying hemp as a Schedule I narcotic, the federal government has opened the door for a potential resurgence of the United States’ hemp-textiles industry.

The decision to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act builds on the pilot industrial-hemp research program introduced when President Barack Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014. The bill allowed certain state-agriculture departments and academic institutions to explore hemp cultivation. Once a large industry in the United States—particularly in the country’s Southeastern region—hemp was cultivated for use in textile production.

Hemp cultivation was legal until 1937 until the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act, which regulated the importation, cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana. While importing the product into the United States was legal, growing the crop was illegal due to its classification as a member of the cannabis family.

Also known as the “Farm Bill of 2018,” the Agriculture Improvement Act, passed on Dec. 20, will allow farmers to cultivate the crop. Authored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the bill passed the Senate on Dec. 11 with an 87–13 vote and was approved by the House with a 369–47 decision.

The hemp legalization comes at a time when the United States is reexamining its trade relationships with international partners. The legislation follows the United States’ decision in September to implement a 10 percent tariff on imports of $200 billion of goods—including textiles—imported from China.

“Our first commitment was to provide farmers and ranchers with certainty and predictability, and this is what attracted broad bipartisan support,” Roberts said in a statement. “I am proud of the members of my committee who have worked so hard to give rural America the tools to produce the safest and most affordable food and fiber in the world.”