President Trump legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp Thursday when he signed a widespread, bipartisan farm bill aimed at boosting the agriculture industry.
The fiber of hemp, a non-intoxicating derivative of the cannabis plant, is used to make a variety of products, such as cardboard, carpets, clothes, paper and more.
Hemp production and sales have historically been illegal under the same federal prohibition against marijuana. The farm bill only deals with industrial hemp and does not address recreational or medical marijuana.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) worked with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to introduce a bill to legalize hemp, which was ultimately included in the farm bill.
"I used my very own hemp pen to sign the conference report, clearing the way for the House and Senate to pass legislation and send it to the president's desk. I'm proud that the bill includes my provision to legalize the production of industrial hemp. It's a victory for farmers and consumers throughout our country," McConnell said when the Senate advanced the farm bill earlier this month.
The farm bill helps removes obstacles farmers face in growing hemp, including restricted access to banking, water rights and crop insurance. Hemp is easier to grow than cotton, corn or soybeans as it requires little water and can be viable in lower-quality soil that is not practical for other crops.
The hemp provision is just one of several aspects of the farm bill meant to aid farmers as exports of agricultural products such as soybeans take a hit as Trump engages in a bitter trade war with China and other countries.