As the founder and CEO of Bluebird Botanicals, a Colorado company selling CBD-rich hemp oil, I’ve watched the industry blossom. Even before the Farm Bill of 2014 carved out the specific exemption that defined hemp as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC - farmers, consumers, and legislators were falling fast for the old hemp plant.
State of the Bill
All of that early interest culminated in the 2014 Farm Bill throwing open the floodgates for domestic hemp production. Before that bill, Bluebird could only import our hemp extract from Europe. Its passage allowed us to happily start working with hemp farmers in Kentucky - and now Colorado.
The original Farm Bill gave regulatory oversight to the state agricultural departments, though it stipulated that data must be collected on the program for research purposes. Most importantly, the legislation gave courage to many new companies to enter the field and from those few of us selling CBD derived from hemp before 2014, the number of companies ballooned into hundreds and hundreds.
However, the 2014 Farm Bill contained a sunset clause. Without renewal, it lapses after five years. To make the changes concrete, the 2018 Farm Bill aims to permanently enshrine and expand upon those rights in fundamental ways.
2018 Bill: clauses of immediate effect
In the new Farm Bill of 2018, the hemp provisions are being carefully shepherded through by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the sake of his hemp growing home state of Kentucky. He’s said, “Consumers across America buy hundreds of millions in retail products every year that contain hemp… but due to outdated federal regulations that do not sufficiently distinguish this industrial crop from its illicit cousin, American farmers have been mostly unable to meet that demand themselves. It's left consumers with little choice but to buy imported hemp products from foreign-produced hemp."
The new Farm Bill contains many important provisions for those farming and researching the plant. It provides for crop insurance so that - like every other agricultural product - a farmer doesn’t have to risk their livelihood or their children’s college funds because of one fire or hailstorm. The bill also finally allows tribal nations to grow on their lands, an opportunity that has been closed to them.
The cannabinoids like CBD derived from hemp receive clear and specific protection. Grants will be available from federal agencies to award researchers and inventors. Most of all, the hemp plants will be cleared for general commercial activity with no research clauses attached, thus fully opening up the hemp plant to the power of American innovation.
Call your legislators to urge them to pass the 2018 Farm Bill with the hemp farming provisions or write them using the portal of the US Hemp Roundtable.
2018 Bill: downstream effects
Besides the immediate effects of the Farm Bill’s protections, the downstream results will be hugely important to this young industry where you’re often locked out of the usual ways to do business. If you work with hemp, many of the services utilized in the modern market are unavailable to you.
Traditional marketing channels are closed. Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google AdWords don’t have the guts to allow CBD ads. No TV commercials. No radio ads. No Analytics data even. Banks won’t work with you. If a credit card processor even deigns to touch you, your account is labeled ‘high-risk’ and this brings a swarm of complications to your cash flow.
The 2018 Farm Bill gives clear guidelines that should put the minds at ease at even the biggest and most risk-averse companies. The regular avenues of doing business will be opening up.
This is not the Wild West. The FDA regulates these nutritional supplements. State and local agencies have authority to oversee the companies in their jurisdictions. The FTC watches for bad actors making false claims. State agricultural departments inspect the fields to ensure that farmers follow the rules. The members of the Hemp Roundtable - where I sit on the board of directors - set the bar high for the industry to self-regulate itself and develop standards for all aspects of the business. There’s regulation at all levels that provides the confidence both regulators and consumers deserve.
Author Bio: Brandon Beatty - CEO and Founder of Bluebird Botanicals. Brandon is ultimately responsible for developing and overseeing the long-term and short-term strategies at Bluebird, managing senior level employees, negotiating and executing deals on behalf of the company, and directing most strategic endeavors whether legislative, regulatory, forming alliances and partnerships, or conducting interviews with the media. He ensures that the company is running smoothly, is well-staffed, has proper resources being allocated, and has a strong foundation to succeed. With the aid of consultants and attorneys, he also helps to ensure that all of our operations are compliant with the various laws we’re bound by.