Many believe that the nationwide decriminalization of marijuana will be a potential unintended consequence of the federal legalization of hemp vis-à-vis the 2018 Farm Bill.
Legalization and decriminalization are distinct terms. Legalization, in this context, means that the U.S. Government, along with a large majority of states, has passed laws permitting the possession and trade in industrial hemp and its products. Decriminalization, on the other hand, does not mean that possession or trade in a product is legal. It means, for one reason or another, that the laws making certain behavior, like possessing or trading in marijuana, punishable by fine or deprivation of liberty, e.g. imprisonment, cannot or will not be enforced.
A flashpoint for the decriminalization debate has been the conundrum of what to do about smokeable hemp, which is exactly what it sounds like: raw, unprocessed cannabis with a THC-Δ9 level of .3 or less and is ingested by smoking. With little or no THC-Δ9, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, why smoke hemp at all? The short answer is that users smoke hemp to get the benefits of marijuana, which users have claimed to alleviate everything from anxiety to the side effects of cancer treatment, without its psychoactive effects. Many users prefer smoking hemp to treating themselves with CBD creams and oils because hemp delivers full spectrum, i.e. all cannabinoids and not just CBD which, by the way, smokeable delivers at higher levels than, for instance, oil. Smoking hemp also delivers cannabinoids to the bloodstream more quickly than a topical treatment, thus delivering its benefit to the user more quickly. Farmers favor growing smokeable hemp because it costs almost nothing to process and is therefore highly profitable.
With so many benefits, you may think states are encouraging the production and sale of smokeable, but that has not been the case in a lot of jurisdictions. Notably, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, N.C. and S.C. have either banned it or are trying to ban it. N.C. has had a contentious fight over smokeable in its legislature and the battle, nearly a year old now, is not over yet. The USDA’s interim final rules do not address smokeable at all, primarily because they only provide baseline regulations for issues related to growing as opposed to processing or selling hemp.
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