Yesterday, Laura A. Labeots, Ph.D., J.D., posted an update on the significant changes to the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 on our Food & Agribusiness blog.

What does this post mean for the cannabis industry?

Since much of cannabis is asexually produced, it appears that marijuana and industrial hemp cultivators can utilize the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) certificate to exclude competitors from utilizing its genetics for hybrids. While we will closely monitor the industry’s ability to utilize the PVP certificate going forward, initially this looks like a viable mechanism to protect your intellectual property (IP) that was otherwise unprotectable a few weeks ago.

Yesterday, Senator Mitch McConnell spoke to a group of hemp advocates in his home state of Kentucky that he will introduce legislation to legalize industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity.  If approved, Sen. McConnell’s legislation would allow states to control their own hemp regulations by removing federal restrictions.

What does this mean?

While industrial hemp has benefited from the 2014 Farm Bill and related state programs, there is still a considerable grey area surrounding the legality and commercialization of industrial hemp, including CBD, in the United States.  The Federal government has long taken the position that general commercialization of industrial hemp is NOT permitted in all 50 states and the DEA’s new definition for “Marihuana Extract” includes: “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.” It should be noted that this definition of “Marihuana Extract” includes CBD isolate that is extracted from industrial hemp.  While Sen. MConnell’s legislation has not yet been released as of posting of this blog, the hope is that it will provide clarity on not only legalizing industrial hemp but also providing clear guidance on the legality of cannabinoids derived from industrial hemp.

The USDA retracted its previous policy today and has permitted the organic certification of industrial hemp by certified agents accredited by the NOP, if produced in accordance with USDA organic regulations.  For imported hemp, existing regulations and guidelines continue to govern whether products may be certified as organic.

What does this mean?

Industrial hemp cultivated under Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) that authorizes institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture to establish industrial hemp research pilot programs in states where the production of industrial hemp is legal can now be certified organic.  This is a positive step for the industry and it is further evidence that industrial hemp will hopefully be legalized in the near future.