Industrial hemp was commonly grown throughout the U.S. up until the early 20th century. At the end of American Revolution, the state of Virginia was cultivating 20,000 acres and producing 5,000 tons of hemp. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 put a $1.00 tax on all transactions within the cannabis industry, defining ‘marihuana’ as “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.” Given that both marijuana and industrial hemp are identified as Cannabis sativa L., this tax applied to all cultivars of cannabis. Although the tax did not prohibit the cultivation of cannabis, it was no longer economically viable for businesses.
Under the Nixon administration in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was ratified. This defined marihuana (Cannabis sativa L.) as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has a “high potential for abuse” and has “no currently accepted medical use”. Research institutions were restricted from conducting studies on cannabis and its compounds, unless they received consent from the DEA. All of the adopted restrictions were presumably directed at the psychoactive compound of cannabis, delta-9 THC, but in turn made the cultivation, sale, and use of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) illegal in the U.S.
End of Prohibition
For 44 years industrial hemp remained illegal in the U.S. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed the USDA’s Farm Bill which allowed universities and state departments to have agricultural pilot programs for industrial hemp. Today, there are 40 universities conducting research on hemp, relearning the lost tradition and discovering new uses and benefits. The Farm Bill of 2018, signed by President Donald Trump, defines hemp as Cannabis sativa L. that has levels of Δ9-THC below 0.3% by dry-weight.
The 2018 Farm Bill allows states to develop their own industrial hemp programs. In the same year, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) adopted the Michigan Industrial Hemp Research and Development Act. Under this Act, Mima is licensed as hemp handler-processors, allowing us to do legal hemp business in the state of Michigan.
War on Drugs today
Thousands of people still have cannabis offenses on their record from the 44 years that the Cannabis sativa L. plant was illegal in Michigan. At the same time that businesses profit from the plant, people are hindered by having a criminal record because of it. A package of seven proposed bills in Michigan would reform expungement laws, and people cannabis-related offenses that would now be legal under new legislation could petition to have their record cleared. Michigan regulators have decided to cut cannabis business licensing fees through the Social Equity program in 41 cities because of disproportionate enforcement during the War on Drugs.
Tell your Michigan representatives to support the bills addressing the expungement of cannabis-related charges.