It has been a wild two years for lawmakers of the 115th Congress, but the fun times are coming to an end. With only days remaining until the current session expires, the nation waits for the 116th Congress to be sworn in, and we expect no shortage of battles, scandals, and gaffes. Until then, the current crop of representatives and senators is trying to pass as much legislation as it can, including the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. That’s politics.
Meant to be a benign farm bill, H.R.2 contains provisions that would be a boon to the hemp industry and reforms aimed at improving the agricultural sector. The legislation’s length also ensured that most representatives failed to read it before casting a vote – you know, the same way lawmakers vote for most bills in Washington these days.
President Trump is expected to sign it into law…
But now H.R.2 has metastasized into one of the most controversial proposals the GOP-controlled House passed this session.
For years, hemp has been treated like marijuana because they are both a part of the cannabis family. Marijuana is used primarily for medicinal and recreational purposes, while hemp maintains 25,000 different industrial applications, such as clothing and dietary supplements. But that hasn’t prevented politicians from frowning upon the natural element for nearly five decades.
President Trump is expected to sign it into law soon, and hemp farmers are celebrating. A key provision in the bill eliminates hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and treats it like any other agricultural crop.
Moving forward, hemp developers will be permitted to apply for loans and grants, write off their business expenses on their taxes, and purchase crop insurance. One of the biggest gains for hemp farmers is the ability to ship their merchandise across state lines without running into the bureaucrats at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But the federal government will still permit states to prohibit or regulate the substance. Like marijuana, some jurisdictions have legalized hemp, while others continue to clamp down on the farming good.
That said, many already see big things for the industry in the immediate future. Analysts estimate that the federal legalization could triple the hemp market to as much as $2.5 billion within the next four years.
The two biggest producers of hemp are China and France, accounting for 70% and 25%, respectively, of the world’s output. Market share could change in the coming years as more countries embrace hemp, including the U.K. and Germany. Could the U.S. become a global leader in hemp by the next decade? It needs to be after witnessing its agriculture sector decimated by the trade war.
And, sorry, stoners, this doesn’t mean you have another item to get high from. According to the Ministry of Hemp, a leading non-profit organization that promotes the hemp industry, “Your lungs will fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp.”
Now, how can a bill about boosting corporate welfare, promoting global trade, and enhancing land conservation efforts have anything to do with U.S. foreign policy, war powers, and Yemen? The answer is simple: Washington.
If it weren’t for the diligence of Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), the American people would have been kept in the dark about suspending provisions of the War Powers Act. Massie argues that leadership decided to use the measure as a way to avoid debate on involving the U.S. in a war in Yemen and the nation’s support for Saudi Arabia.
For three years, Yemen, one of the Arab region’s poorest nations, has been embroiled in a civil war that has killed as many as 50,000 people. The fight, which has pushed millions into the brink of starvation, has intensified between the government and the Houthi Shia Muslim rebels. It escalated in the last year when Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, supported by the U.S., U.K., and France, launched air strikes against the rebels.
Liberty Nation reported in 2017:
“Human rights advocates have reported war crimes on the part of the Saudi coalition. Complaints include the targeting of wounded and medical personnel, targeting facilities operated by aid organizations, the use of cluster munitions, and the use of white phosphorus. Between the Yemeni Civil War and the Saudi-led intervention, over 10,000 people have been killed, and over 40,000 have been wounded to date.”
Recently, a trio of senators sponsored a Yemen resolution that invoked the War Powers Resolution of 1973, providing Congress the power to order a president to remove soldiers in hostile environments “without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) garnered enough votes, helping it pass 56-41.
But House Republicans and Democrats inserted a stipulation in the farm bill that blocks votes on the resolution. This bars further debate on the issue in the present session.
The Democrats who cast a vote in favor of it said they did so to save the overall legislation. But that doesn’t mean certain Democrats will sit on the sidelines in 2019. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) already has plans to reintroduce it next year in the new Congress.
Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you must concede that this was a sneaky move on the part of leadership. However, this is done time and again: An unrelated but critical measure is inserted into some mundane package, which nobody ever reads because it’s just too immense.
Meanwhile, the media are silent on the dire situation. The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen often has taken a back seat in their coverage. As the mainstream press concentrates its resources on Russia, porn stars, and “the walls are closing in” on the Trump presidency, tens of thousands are dying in the Middle East. This should dominate the news cycle, but two things are at play: Anchors, pundits, and reporters are too focused on hating President Trump to care, and they have generally endorsed U.S. foreign policy of the last 60 years.
This isn’t an issue of American farmers versus Yemeni kids. It’s a case of being honest with the voters. But this is Washington we’re talking about. If a law that banned lying were ever passed, there would be an eerie silence in the swamp.