Coalition Urges USDA to Limit Hemp Industry Felony Ban Implementation

A coalition of farmers, drug policy organizations and state agricultural officials have written a letter calling on the U.S Department of Agriculture to limit the interpretation and implementation of a ban on the participation in the newly legalized hemp industry by people who have a felony drug conviction.

The Senate Agriculture Committee chair released this letter to the public during a committee hearing on Thursday as officials from the federal government gave the lawmakers updates regarding the progress that they had so far made towards implementing the Farm Act of 2018 which legalized hemp.

The 2018 Farm Act also carries a ban on people with felony drug convictions. The original provision had sought to place a permanent ban on people with felony drug convictions from taking part in hemp production but after this was met with stiff opposition, the ban was reduced to 10 years from the date that someone was convicted.

The letter from the coalition expresses concerns that the felony ban in the Farm Act of 2018 could be misread and therefore exclude many people from participating in the burgeoning hemp industry.

The entities that formed the coalition which wrote that letter to the USDA state that the federal agency should be mindful of the intention of the lawmakers who passed the 2018 Farm Act before it was signed by President Trump.

The coalition argues that the intention was to ban people with felony drug convictions from obtaining licenses to grow industrial hemp. However, this intent can be misconstrued to mean that people with this type of conviction cannot participate in any activity connected to hemp production.

The coalition also argues that a misreading of the felony ban could also impose added costs on hemp industry participants who would feel compelled to conduct costly background checks as well as monitor their employees so that administrative action can be taken as soon as any of them is convicted on a felony drugs charge.

American Farm Bureau Federation, Vote Hemp, Drug Policy Alliance and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture signed the letter to Stephen Vaden, the General Counsel of USDA and copied to the chair of the Senate Agricultural committee.

This coalition admits that while the actual language of the Farm Act was vague on the matter, the conference report clearly stipulates that the intention of the provisions was to exclude felony drug convicts from being licensed to grow hemp under federal, state and tribal hemp plans.

They therefore urged the USDA to limit the extent to which the felony ban is implemented to just those who want to get hemp production licenses rather than all who wish to work in production or other industries linked to hemp production, such as transport and packaging.

Analysts believe that entities like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) and Marijuana Company of America Inc. (OTCQB: MCOA) will be following these discussions closely in order to get insights into what the hemp rules could contain once they are released next month.

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