Dec 21, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Hemp, the cannabis plant, is now legal under federal law

A photo of a wild cannabis plant, or hemp

Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The farm bill that President Trump signed into law yesterday legalized hemp, although it will be highly regulated.

Why it matters: Hemp is defined as the cannabis plant, which also produces marijuana. However, the distinction is that hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC — the chemical that gets people high. The legalization will promote research into hemp's uses, including as a medical product.

What happens next: While 33 states have legalized medical cannabis use, changes in federal law have lagged behind. Some advocates hope this is a step toward larger federal marijuana reforms.

The FDA issued a statement reiterating that it still has the authority to regulate cannabis products, and that it will take enforcement action against companies illegally selling these products.

  • It will also be examining how to make approval pathways for cannabis products "more predictable and efficient," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

Go deeper with Brookings' explainer on the new hemp law

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