Ongoing Congressional Activity
Industrial Hemp Farming Act
In the 114th Congress, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 (Massie/H.R. 525; Wyden/S. 134) is intended to facilitate the possible commercial cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States. The bills would amend Section 102 of the CSA (21 U.S.C. 802(16)) to exclude “industrial hemp” and specify that the term marijuana does not include industrial hemp, which the bill would define based on a determination of its THC content (not more than 0.3% THC), marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical. Such a change could remove low-THC hemp from being covered by the CSA as a controlled substance subject to DEA regulation, thus allowing for industrial hemp to be grown and processed under some state laws. The bill could grant authority to any state permitting industrial hemp production and processing to determine whether any such cannabis plants met the limit on THC concentration as set forth in the CSA. In any criminal or civil action or administrative proceeding, the state’s determination may be conclusive and binding. The House and Senate bills differ in that S. 134 includes a provision that would allow states to override this determination if the U.S. Attorney General determines that the state law does not “reasonably” comply with the requirements of the proposed CSA amendments. H.R. 525 does not include this language.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was first introduced in the 109th Congress by former Representative Ron Paul and was reintroduced in subsequent legislative sessions (H.R. 1831, 112th Congress; H.R. 1866, 111th Congress; H.R. 1009, 110th Congress; H.R. 3037, 109th Congress). In the 112th Congress, Senator Ron Wyden introduced S. 3501 in the Senate.119 Representative Massie introduced H.R. 525, and Senator Wyden introduced S. 359, in the 113th Congress. Some in Congress believe that industrial hemp production could result in economic and employment gains in some states and regions.120
Legislation Regarding Possible Medical Applications of Hemp
Two other bills introduced in the 114th Congress would amend CSA “to exclude cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich plants from the definition of marihuana, and for other purposes.” Both bills would also amend the CSA to define a “cannabidiol-rich plant” to mean “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” and so would be consistent with the statutory definition for industrial hemp. The two bills are related but are not identical. One way the two bills differ is that the House bill (Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act of 2015, H.R. 1635) would further exclude cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich plants from being applicable to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. This provision is not part of the Senate bill (Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015, S. 1333). A similar version of the House bill was introduced in the 113th Congress (Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014, H.R. 5226).
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound in Cannabis that is low in delta-9 THC.121 The “Charlotte’s Web” reference in the House bill refers to a high-CBD (low THC) Cannabis extract that has been sold as a dietary supplement and marketed as helping to address various ailments, including neuropathic pain, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, nausea as a result of chemotherapy, and other disorders.122 Most CBD extracts currently being marketed for certain therapeutic purposes are generally formulated from strains of cannabis with THC levels higher than 0.3% but generally less than 1% THC.123 Some hemp-based CBD products have been marketed as being rich in CBD and as having comparable therapeutic uses to CBD extracts, resulting in the FDA issuing warning letters to several companies.124
There is also growing concern that hemp-based CBD products, derived from industrial hemp, are being marketed as being rich in CBD and as having comparable therapeutic uses to CBD extracts. Medicine-grade CBD is not produced or pressed from hemp seeds. Hemp seed oil, marketed as “hemp oil,” is made by pressing hemp seeds that contain low levels of CBD (typically less than 25 parts per million). Most of the CBD extracts currently being marketed for certain therapeutic purposes are generally formulated from strains of cannabis with THC levels higher than 0.3% but generally less than 1% THC.125 For more information, see CRS In Focus IF10391, Potential Use of Industrial Hemp in Cannabidiol Products.
To date, FDA has not approved any drug product containing CBD for any indication and has issued warning letters to several companies that market CBD products to treat health conditions for both humans and pets. According to FDA, these products are not “generally recognized as safe and effective,” and the companies marketing these products are engaging in illegal interstate commerce.126 FDA has further determined that products containing CBD cannot be sold as dietary supplements and are excluded from the dietary supplement definition in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.127 As such, FDA may consult with its federal and state partners about whether to initiate a federal enforcement action against the manufacturers of CBD products that are marketed as dietary supplements.128 In June 2015, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control held a hearing on the barriers to research and the potential medical benefits of CBD. (Additional information is provided in the text box on the next page.)
Many agriculture-based groups continue to advocate for the need for additional research into the possible benefits and uses of industrial hemp-derived CBD.129 Some states continue to conduct research on the potential uses for industrial hemp-derived CBD.130
In February 2017, the National Academies of Sciences published a comprehensive review of existing cannabis research. The study provides a broad set of evidence-based research conclusions on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids and provides recommendations to support advancing future research and inform public health decisions.131
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics ContSenate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Cont rol (June 2015 Hearing)rol (June 2015 Hearing) rol (June 2015 Hearing) rol (June 2015 Hearing) rol (June 2015 Hearing) rol (June 2015 Hearing) rol (June 2015 Hearing) rol (June 2015 Hearing) In June 2015, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, led by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, held a hearing on the barriers to research and the potential medical benefits of CBD. The caucus leaders claimed many leading medical organizations have called for further research into the potential medical use of CBD. The hearing addressed the complexities involved with conducting CBD research, as well as its potential medical benefits and risks in treating serious illnesses. The hearing provided a follow-up to letters sent by the caucus leaders to DOJ and to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ask these agencies to evaluate CBD using the appropriate scientific and medical factors to make a scheduling determination for it that is separate from the whole marijuana plant. The caucus anticipates that “[i]f it turns out that CBD may be classified on a lower schedule than the entire marijuana plant, and then research on it may proceed somewhat more easily.”132 The caucus reported that DOJ and HHS have agreed to undertake this evaluation,133 representing that “for the first time, the federal government will conduct a comprehensive analysis to determine whether cannabidiol has scientific and medical value.”134 Source: CRS based on opening statement of Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Committee, June 24, 2015; and Senator Dianne Feinstein, “Feinstein, Grassley Announce New Federal Policy on Cannabidiol Research,” press release, June 23, 2015. See also letter from DOJ to Senator Feinstein, January 5, 2015; letter from HHS to Senator Grassley, May 13, 2015; and letter from DOJ to Senators Grassley and Feinstein, June 23, 2015.