There are two primary pieces of federal legislation that have resulted in major changes to the status of hemp under federal law.
2014 Farm Bill
The 2014 Farm Bill essentially created an exception in federal cannabis law. To the extent that cannabis qualified as “hemp” under the Farm Bill, it would be treated differently than if the identical plant had been grown at a farm across the street.
To simplify, the 2014 Farm Bill permitted states to undertake pilot programs to study the viability of hemp as a crop. In addition, this hemp needed to have less than 0.3% THC.
Public statements from the 2014 Farm Bill’s hemp provision’s authors reflect an intention for this exception to apply to products, such as CBD, derived from this “Farm Bill hemp.” Nonetheless, sporadic enforcement continued, as did lawsuits to enforce the text of the Farm Bill provision.
2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill significantly expands the breadth of this “Farm Bill hemp” exception.
The bill is explicit that it excludes certain cannabis plants and their seeds, derivatives and extracts with a THC concentration below 0.3% from the otherwise applicable drug laws. To avoid any doubt regarding its applicability to CBD, Section 297A(1) explicitly includes the “cannabinoids” from such a cannabis plant in the definition of hemp.
Oversight of hemp regulation is vested in the federal Department of Agriculture, with the prospect for states to submit regulatory proposals to the Department of Agriculture. Notably, the 2018 Farm Bill will prohibit states from interfering with the interstate transport of Farm Bill hemp. It also provides for remediation plans for individuals who are found to be cultivating hemp with a higher THC concentration to the extent they can demonstrate that this was an accidental oversight.