Farm Bill language bans drug felons from hemp industry

Farm Bill hemp, Farm Bill language bans drug felons from hemp industry

(This story has been updated from an earlier version.)

A lifetime ban on drug felons in the hemp industry could result from a pending bill to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

The 2018 Farm Bill has been roundly praised by hemp activists because the Senate version would give hemp-derived CBD new legal protections and would make hemp eligible for crop insurance and federal water rights.

But the bill has another provision that isn’t as pleasing to hemp entrepreneurs – a lifetime ban on anyone “convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance under state or federal law.”

Out of business

The felon ban has some of hemp’s most seasoned entrepreneurs warning that the Farm Bill could undercut the existing hemp industry even as it expands market access to others.

“It’s completely discriminatory,” said Veronica Carpio, who has been growing hemp in Colorado since 2013, a year before the Farm Bill that authorized states like Colorado to permit hemp production.

Carpio said she would no longer be able to grow hemp because of a prior marijuana-related conviction.

“This is going to deny a ton of opportunity to people getting in the hemp business,” she told Hemp Industry Daily.

The felony language was added to an original hemp amendment from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentuckian who has been a strong advocate for expanding production of the plant.

McConnell’s office did not return a call from Hemp Industry Daily seeking clarification on the proposal.

‘It’s a compromise’

According to Geoff Whaling, head of the National Hemp Association, the felon amendment came after hemp skeptics tried to remove CBD production from the bill, citing concerns about THC levels in legal hemp.

Whaling, who was involved in negotiations on hemp in the Farm Bill but not specifically the felon ban, told Hemp Industry Daily the felon ban may have been necessary to reduce opposition to the overall hemp expansion.

Without it, he said, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and others could have fought hemp’s inclusion in the larger bill. The NHA supports the hemp language overall but plans to work to get the felon ban removed from the final version, he said.

“People have to remember that the legislative process is a negotiating process,” Whaling said. “There is give and take on all sides.”


Whaling conceded that the felon ban could remove opportunities for many interested hemp producers, including folks who are already in the business, like Carpio.

“It’s not perfect; it’s a compromise,” Whaling said of the bill.

Still, the felony amendment has some pushing for the final 2018 Farm Bill to undergo more work before it heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.

“This is a terrible amendment and one the industry needs to unite against and have removed from the bill,” said Morris Beegle, president of the Colorado Hemp Co.

The Senate has passed the hemp expansion (including the felon ban) through its version of the Farm Bill. But the House version of the same bill makes no mention of the plant.

The two chambers will have to hammer out a compromise version before sending it to the president for final approval.

Congress has until the end of September to negotiate on the Farm Bill. If the House and Senate can’t agree by then, the existing hemp pilot-project language could expire.

Next steps

While hemp entrepreneurs interviewed by Hemp Business Daily said they support expansion even with the felon ban, they believe the industry should push for the ban language to be removed from the final version.

“It makes no sense,” said Rick Trojan, a Colorado hemp grower who also has ownership stakes in hemp production projects in Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont.

“This would be disallowing felons from something they could’ve been doing a month ago,” Trojan said. “You could’ve been growing cannabis illegally a month ago, got caught, and now you can’t grow cannabis anymore now that it’s legal.”

Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected]

27 comments on “Farm Bill language bans drug felons from hemp industry
  1. Christopher Simmons on

    Interpretation: “We can’t have these Blacks and Hispanics who we arrested, benefiting when they are released from prison.

    • Jason Lauve on

      Discrimination from this group and people must be addressed and make sure they are tarred and feathered!
      I am also concerned because I understand that Geoff is a Canadian. Why are we letting these groups slow our opportunities down. I would guess that they also have something to do with slowing many states down with the anti CBD legislation.
      Please do make FOIA requests using keywords in your state to see the communication on these issues.

    • The FINDER on

      I’m black and in the hemp industry and from my time of working with hemp I’ve noticed too many black market weed dealers entering the hemp business and making a mess. Good no felonies. Get your records expunged and handle your business to be fully compliant. I am

      • Vince on

        Thanks for your perspective – it’s very enlightening. While I am sure there will be some cases where this law might be over restrictive, it makes sense when you think that it blocks participation from those who are known to break the law.

    • Gloria Anderson on

      Exactly, Christopher Simmons. Whenever they use the word “compromise” it usually means ” we must not let minorities benefit from their own taxpayer money ” or some other racist -based nonsense. This way of politics is outdated and has been perpetrated upon vulnerable groups for too long. It keeps the brakes on progress and consistently damages America’s image globally. America must lose its’ fetish for racism.

  2. Clifton Middleton on

    This is an abomination of justice. Marijuana should have never been illegal, all of the laws and regulations prohibiting the use of hemp are unconstitutional lies. This farm bill is racism codified into law. This is evil to the core and will not stand. The Marijuana Movement is on a roll. We are the cutting edge of Direct Democracy. All marijuana convictions will be overturned and compensation will be paid. The congress men who voted to continue criminalizing citizens for pot will all lose.

  3. Jason Lauve on

    This is another prejudicial and discriminating attack by Canadian interests, embedded in the current so called hemp industry groups, against the American Farmer and our society as a whole. I would be happy to debate these so called leaders from the NHA and HIA or any other joker who is trying to steal this plant from the American people in the entire American continent!
    Any division suggested by these groups is dangerous and extremely discriminatory!

    • Donald Lampkin on

      Some of the best people I know are felons and one that was convicted for talking on a phone about felonies BUT did not do anything just talked now he can’t get a good job has two degrees now that’s f**ked up, how can a guy put his past behind him and live a good life.

    • Sally King on

      I am in complete agreement. Unless these (mostly kids) are informed of all the things that would happen to them if they ever get a felony, we are bringing this down on them.
      There are probably a lot of things that I did not do cause I was informed beforehand of the consequences. My mother and father taught me. We have lots of kids that really do not know the consequences of a felony on their records. There is so much they cannot now or in the future achieve because of that conviction. We need to start teaching kids in grade school about the laws & what can happen if they break them besides just going to jail.

      • Landis Finly on

        Better yet, we need to stop being one of the only countries on earth who still punishes our fellow humans after they have served their sentence!

  4. Bruce on

    Sure lets inspire some recidivism shall we?

    If you think they had concerns about “improper pollenation” of hemp cropping before, just wait and see what happens when you ban folks trying to make an honest living in a non-drug industry only to be reminded of what happened 30 years ago when you forgot that lid was in your car.


    Just goes to show you that no matter how long you pay your debts to society for transgressions of the past…the bills wills never stop coming in.

    What a crock of crappola.

  5. Angela Ellis on

    How crazy, the farm bill is trying to prohibit the very people you want growing hemp, yet opens the gate to harmful chemicals. ASS BACKWARDS

  6. Michael Whalen, Nevada Hemp Association on

    Shame on Geoff Whaling!
    What He calls a compromise I call BULLSHIT! What spineless coward would
    agree to such terms? A compromise? What a punk! This sellout is currently in a leadership role at the National Hemp Association? He of all people should know Our countries history with unfair laws and the millions of good people who got convicted over this same plant He claims to represent here in America….Oh…What’s that? He’s Canadian? Kick Him OUT! Let Us re-read His statements, shall We?:

    “‘It’s a compromise’ (I call it a sell out!)

    According to Geoff Whaling, headgiver of the National Hemp Association, the felon amendment was intended to address concerns from hemp skeptics (F*ck them!) that the 2018 Farm Bill would give illegal marijuana producers access to a nationwide commodity market before regulators could figure out how to check a new crop for THC levels. (And Geoff, the Canadian, must have agreed)

    Whaling, who was involved in negotiations over the bill’s felon language,( Involved! More like in bed!) told Hemp Industry Daily the ban was necessary to reduce opposition to the overall hemp expansion. (Necessary? I call this BULLSHIT!)

    Without it, he said, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and others could have fought the amendment’s inclusion. (Who the f*ck is Chuck Grassley? You are a Pussy Geoff!)

    “People have to remember that the legislative process is a negotiating process,” Whaling said. “There is give and take on all sides.” (Geoff Wheling gives and takes all right! Giving up on the heart and soul of the Hemp Industry and taking it up the ass on Our behalf! No Thank You You slimy worm! Go back to Canada, eh. You suck d*ck and have failed Us miserably!) Is trhis what the NHA has become? I miss Zev! Bring back Zev! Shame!

  7. Gloria Anderson on

    Wow! I guess I ‘ll reconsider joining NHA in light of this detrimental action Geoff Whaling is taking. So sick and tired of people who are SUPPOSED to be advocates of inclusion in the Hemp Industry always watering down bills to please racist and sexist politicians. Either this be removed from the bill or NOBODY gets the benefit. To hell with “compromise” at the expense of the same groups who have always been historically excluded from wealth-generating prospects in the USA. ENOUGH WITH THE INSANITY! ENOUGH!

  8. Veronica on

    This is the post NHA put up regarding this news and admentment…it is totally shocking and they are trying to pull a trump move w/both denial and “fake news”…wow

    “There are some rumors floating around that somehow NHA had something to do with the technical amendment to the farm bill that exempts people with a felony drug conviction from being permit holders. For the record, that is fake news and we do NOT endorse this provision nor did we have anything to do with McConnell introducing it. The reason that it was added is because of Senator Grassley. He had grave concerns about the hemp language and was prepared to kill it. This is the compromise McConnell came up with to get Grassley on board. As chairman of Judiciary there was no choice but to get his approval as this language effects both the CSA and the DEA which the Farm Bill without Grassley’s consent has no jurisdiction over.

    Soon we will be releasing the contact information for the house and senate members that have been assigned to the conference committee for the Farm Bill. While we do not want to see the hemp language fail over this issue we also encourage you to contact your legislators to make sure the hemp language stays in the bill and to push back against this technical amendment.”

  9. geoff whaling on


    A rush to be the first with this story may have resulted in a poorly written article. NHA does not support this ‘felon” language in the amendment. We were NOT involved in the specific negotiation of the felon language. This article misstates our role. We pushed back when this narrow compromise was reached and will continue to do so during the conference process. Senator Grassley was trying to derail the entire McConnell Hemp Farming ACT language from the Farm Bill using his Chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley submitted a much more drastic and limiting amendment entitled “Title XIII Cannabidoil and Marijuana Research Expansion ACT”. We worked to keep that out. The “give and take” negotiations was between McConnell and Grassley which resulted in this “felon” language being added at the very last minute.

    We invite you to use your energy to join us in DC or by contacting, once announced, all of the House and Senate members appointed to the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee. Also reach out to your own congressional delegation sharing your disgust of this language. Its not a done deal until the Conference Report is finalized.

    And for those of you who are concerned about citizenship. Again facts matter – I’m an American Citizen, born in Canada.

  10. Gloria Anderson on

    The People possess the Power to bend Politicians into our will- house. We have forgotten who the shot-callers are- US- NOT them. With the country at critical mass- having an ultra-toxic environment, a chaotic water system due to melting ice, the worst drought in California history ( the state which, by the way, supplies a hefty percentage of our fresh produce) a tragically crumbling infrastructure system, and Citizens dying and suffering all over the place from preventable illnesses- we must force Politicians to either adopt & maintain a platform which is all-inclusive in its’ application of Cannabis laws- or BE VOTED OUT OF OFFICE. No more playing sheep with these pilferers. No more time for this long-held racist stupidity.

  11. Leesa on

    You can apply for a license to sell CBD as long as you’re not a drug felon? Other felony charges are accepted or?

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