As a government shutdown looms, there are many instances where our political discourse is greatly divided, but let’s not focus on what divides us at the moment, let’s celebrate something that unites us as a nation-hemp. It is fitting that hemp is one of the few bipartisan issues that brings together Democratic Senators from Oregon with Republican Senators from Kentucky, and elected officials in between. Hemp has played a pivotal role in the foundation of our nation’s survival from the farms of our Founding Fathers to fertile fields in the 1940s, helping the Allies win World War II (Hemp for Victory!). Hopefully, hemp will help lead the U.S. into a better future with more jobs, better health, an improved environment, and setting the stage to ending federal cannabis prohibition as well.

NORML issued the following statements regarding the historic provisions that go into effect on January 1st, removing hemp with .03% or less THC from the list of federally controlled substances:

“The significance of this law change should not be underemphasized,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “This law marks the first change in the federal classification of the cannabis plant since it was initially classified as a schedule I controlled substance by Congress in 1970, and paves the way for the first federally-sanctioned commercial hemp grows since World War II.”

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal added: “These changes represent a significant and long overdue shift in US policy. Nonetheless, future regulatory efforts will likely still be required to address emerging consumer issues when it comes to the commercial sale and marketing of certain hemp-derived products, particularly so-called hemp-derived CBD extracts. For years, many of the producers of these products have navigated in a grey area of the law — manufacturing products of variable and sometimes questionable quality and safety. Now it is time for lawmakers to craft consistent benchmark safety and quality standards for hemp-derived CBD in order to increase consumer satisfaction and confidence as this nascent industry transitions into a legal marketplace.”

Another bill that has garnered wide bipartisan support recently in Congress is the criminal justice reform measure known as the First Step Act, which has passed both the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed by Trump even as a federal shutdown looms. Colorado Senator Corey Gardner attempted to add a provision mirroring the STATES Act that would provide states the right to move forward with cannabis legalization programs without fear of interference by the federal government. While current Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley shut down Gardner’s amendment, he hinted that such a proposal’s time will come in the future, as reported by Marijuana Moment:

The outing Judiciary Committee chairman and longtime marijuana opponent said the amendment’s effect of allowing cannabis businesses to access banks would be “inappropriate to consider in the context of a criminal justice reform bill.”

Grassley did, however, concede that Gardner “worked hard on this and he may be ahead of the time when there will be a real debate on this.”

“Maybe there will be, at that point, an opportunity to consider his approach as something lesser than the legalization of marijuana generally,” he said.

As Cheddar covered, Donald Trump told Colorado’s Republican Senator that he is prepared to sign the STATES Act if it gets to his desk:

“You have billions of dollars in cash floating around the country, can’t go in banks because banks won’t take it. It’s considered money laundering even though its legal,”Gardner said of states that have legalized cannabis. If individuals work at a marijuana dispensary, Gardner added, they can’t take out home loans.

According to Gardner, President Trump is amenable to the plan. “[Trump] would sign this bill if it were to come before his desk,” he said.

With America divided on so many issues, I personally take comfort in the fact that we are ending 2018 with bipartisan bills that are legalizing hemp and implementing some common sense criminal sentencing reforms. Both actions are good steps in the right direction. Here’s to ending cannabis prohibition and reforming the greater Drug War in 2019 and beyond, in spite of our political differences.

To learn about the latest opportunities in hemp and cannabis, there is no better place than the International Cannabis Business Conference. The ICBC will be in San Francisco on February 7-8, 2019. Get your discounted early-bird tickets by January 18th to secure your spot and save. After San Francisco, the ICBC will be hosting events in Barcelona, Berlin, Zurich, and Vancouver throughout the year.