Hemp in the United States

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Spreading harvested hemp in Kentucky, 1898

Hemp in the United States has gone from a legal crop in the 18th and 19th centuries, to a banned substance in the 20th century, and has returned as a legal crop in the 21st century. By 2019, the United States had become the world's third largest producer of hemp, behind China and Canada.[1]


War on drugs[edit]

Federal policies, tightened by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the war on drugs. According to an industry group, "the 1970 Act abolished the taxation approach [of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act] and effectively made all cannabis cultivation illegal".[2] The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) refused to issue permits for legal hemp cultivation[a] and held that, since industrial hemp is from the same species plant as prohibited cannabis (despite its being of lower THC yield), both were prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act.[4][5] In the words of a 2015 PBS NewsHour segment on hemp, "[t]o the federal government, hemp is just as illegal as marijuana",[6] and according to Newsweek, "all cannabis sativa—whether grown to ease chronic pain, get stoned or make rope—is a schedule I controlled substance".[7]

21st century legalization[edit]

Agricultural hemp was allowed on an experimental basis by federal law under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (farm bill).[7][8] Under the 2018 United States farm bill, commodity hemp production was federally legalized.[9]


  1. ^ A legal scholar wrote in 1999, "By law, industrial hemp is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance because of its distant relationship to the much higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing plant, marijuana. Anyone wishing to grow, cultivate, or manufacture a Schedule I controlled substance must obtain licensing permission from the D.E.A. ... [I]ndustrial hemp cannot be legally grown in the United States because the D.E.A. refuses to grant farmers and entrepreneurs the required permit, Number 225, which would allow the licensee to "manufacture" a "controlled substance." The D.E.A. has never granted these permits."[3]


  1. ^ "U.S. jumps to No. 3 among top hemp growing nations". Hemp Today. Poland. February 18, 2019.
  2. ^ West, David P. Ph.D. (February 27, 1998). "Hemp and Marijuana: Myths & Realities". North American Industrial Hemp Council. Archived from the original on November 20, 2016.
  3. ^ Shepherd 1999.
  4. ^ "Farmers sue DEA for right to grow industrial hemp". CNN. October 18, 2007. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  5. ^ Moore, Catherine V. (July 20, 2016), "Can Industrial Hemp Save Kentucky's Small Farms?", Yes!, retrieved February 23, 2019, When you ask Kentuckians what they need to make hemp a success, their first answer is always to take the plant off the federal list of controlled substances.
  6. ^ "Kentucky farmers quitting tobacco, turning to unlikely new crop". PBS Newshour. October 17, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Firger, Jessica (October 23, 2015). "The Great Kentucky Hemp Experiment". Newsweek. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  8. ^ Roenker, Robin (January 2016). "Industrial hemp returns to Kentucky". Kentucky Living. Archived from the original on February 7, 2016.
  9. ^ "Hemp is officially legalized with President Trump's signature on farm bill", The Boston Globe, December 20, 2018, retrieved February 24, 2019

External links[edit]