While the broader cannabis community waits to hear what the Trump administration’s official policy on state marijuana legalization laws will be, we now know that the White House will at least be issuing a statement on industrial hemp within the next two months.
This weekend, a petition on WhiteHouse.gov crossed the threshold of signatures required to force a response from the administration.
“Industrial hemp was once a dominant crop on the American landscape. This hardy and renewable resource was refined for various industrial applications, including paper, textiles, and cordage,” reads the petition submitted by Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. “We request that President Trump work with Congress to pass hemp legislation in 2017.”
Under a policy started by the Obama administration, the White House has pledged to issue responses within 60 days to petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures in a period of 30 days.
In 2012, Gil Kerlikowske, then the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (commonly referred to as the drug czar’s office) dismissively responded to a similar hemp petition, writing:
“America’s farmers deserve our Nation’s help and support to ensure rural America’s prosperity and vitality. Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The Administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety.”
Advocates are hopeful that their issue is gaining enough traction to warrant a more serious reply this time around.
In the last Congress, House and Senate bills to amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exclude hemp from the definition of marijuana garnered impressive lists of cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The House version of the legislation had support from Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana, now Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of the Interior, as well as Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who was recently confirmed to head the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Similar legislation will soon be reintroduced in Congress with bipartisan support.
“There will be some minor changes to the bills this year including allowing tribes as well as states,” Steenstra told MassRoots in an email, referring to growing interest in cannabis cultivation on Native American reservations.
Freshman Republican Congressman James Comer, a former Kentucky state agriculture commissioner, told C-SPAN in a recent interview that he is taking the lead on the House version of the bill this year.
In the meantime, Steenstra is reaching out to contacts in the Department of Agriculture in an attempt to shape a more positive petition response from the Trump administration than the one that Obama’s drug czar sent in 2012.
“With the promised 60 day response time, we should receive a reply by 4/20,” he said.