The hemp legal landscape

It is hard to differentiate hemp from its close cousin, marijuana. Both plant's derivatives, like CBD, look similar, and the smell is the same. No matter if we're talking about flowers, oils, or ground plant material, it's hard, even for a trained eye, to catch a difference.

This inability to determine distinctions between both plants has brought producers, consumers, and law enforcement many problems. Yes, since the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp is recognized as legal under the law. Unfortunately, there's still no clear law enforcement guidance for hemp production and consumption; the plant continues to exist in a state of confusion across the country.

This confusion has affected the transportation of hemp between states and legally run processing operations of the plant. Regrettably, there have been even improper seizing of hemp facilities, which slows-down industry growth in the United States.

Lack of standards

Whether we are talking about a farmer transporting its crops from one state to another, or an enthusiast smoking hemp in the parking lot at a conference, there are no guarantees police will know if the plant in question is hemp or marijuana.

No standardized field test has been determined by the police to be used in these cases. Looking at a derivative product is not enough to assess its THC concentration, which must not surpass the 0.3% legal limit.

But there's even uncertainty on how to determine that 0.3%. Regulations change state by state, and there are no standards on what to measure or what parts of the plan to study. Some states test flowers; others test the whole plant. Some states only test delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; others look at delta-9 THC and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), making the test harder to pass.

Legal Status

All this legal ambiguity should have been resolved with the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill. The new legislation stopped referring to pilot programs and explicitly allowed the commercialization of hemp, transportation, and the plant's processing, of course, under the legal guidelines.

The latest bill also transferred hemp products' regulatory jurisdiction—for human or animal consumption—from the DEA to the Food and Drug Administration. Yet, the FDA has been slow in imposing a regulatory frame for producers and consumers. States like Colorado have taken the helm in creating their own defining rules for the industry. Since not all states share the same regulations, this adds to the confusion.

All these incertitudes have put a burden on hemp companies and consumers' shoulders. In the current landscape, and to avoid problems, anyone who delves into hemp-related activities should document every step of their production and be prepared to prove their operation's legality.

Fortunately, the legal hemp and cannabis field has been growing in the last few years, and farmers can get access to a lawyer today easier than ever. Sites like Top 200 Cannabis Lawyers are excellent resources to protect oneself and its legal product.