A bill headed to the House floor could put Louisiana farmers in the hemp-growing business.
House Bill 491 passed the agricultural committee unanimously last week. The bill would legalize industrial hemp, but still bans the production, sale and use of CBD.
The bill defines hemp as the Cannabis Sativa L. plant that has a THC concentration of .3 percent or less.
Those licensed by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry would be allowed to cultivate, process, handle and transport hemp. The legislation doesn’t address the legality of CBD, one of the plant’s most popular by products.
“If you are in possession CBD oil, you are in violation of federal law,” said Sen. Fred Mills. CBD laws have recently caused major confusion among sellers and users. Most stores now carrying the product are operating in the gray area of the law.
“Right now it is not legal in Louisiana. It’s not legal to sell it and it’s not legal to possess it. It’s still considered a schedule 1 drug and has severe penalties,” said Mills.
House Bill 491 would legalize industrial hemp and provide regulations overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Hemp is used for textiles, fuels, rope, its oils and other materials.
“The difference between cannabis that you get high on and industrial hemp is the level of THC in it. One is an industrial fiber that has no psychoactive properties. You cannot get high off of it,” says a local CBD researcher who wished to remain anonymous. “The other is a drug.”
For decades, federal law did not differentiate hemp from other cannabis plants.
The Farm Bill approved by Congress last year legalized industrial hemp by removing it from the list of federally controlled substances.
States are now allowed to regulate the production, commerce and research of the plant but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally.
“The Farm Act approved the sale of CBD products, but Louisiana law stated that there is it a separation have anything to do with a marijuana plant,” says John Downs the owner of Swamp Vapor. Downs used to sell CBD products in his store until he received a cease and desist letter from the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco.
The letter stated the ATC would be issuing citations to any retail permit holders who offer CBD products.
House Bill 491 could legalize growing and processing industrial hemp in the state, but won’t have effects on the sale and use of CBD products.
Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s proposal would require a hemp growing and production regulatory plan be submitted to the USDA by Nov. 1.