The CBD and hemp industries are growing exponentially thanks to the efforts of several notable people and organizations. Among those entities are Jonathan Miller and the US Hemp Roundtable.
Mr. Miller, a “recovering politician” who is now a full-time hemp lawyer, played a crucial role in fully legalizing hemp.
He offers legal counsel to hemp companies and is the general counsel to the US Hemp Roundtable, an organization working hard to advocate for hemp and its derivatives, like CBD.
“We’re doing everything we can to expedite [the FDA regulations for CBD] because we’re all very anxious about getting a regulatory pathway for the recognition of CBD as a dietary supplement and a food additive,” said Miller.
The Roundtable, which exists to promote favorable hemp policies and legalization, consists of some of the most prominent companies in the hemp industry.
Jonathan Miller is a self-proclaimed “recovering politician” who has written for websites such as The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox, and CNN.
Miller started his career in politics working for Al Gore during Gore’s time as the Vice President for President Bill Clinton.
After returning to Kentucky, the people of Kentucky twice elected Miller as the Kentucky State Treasurer and he served from 1999 to 2007.
He ran for Governor of Kentucky in 2007, but dropped out early and endorsed Steve Beshear who went on to win.
Miller was appointed as Secretary for the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet in 2007 and served until 2011.
Miller began researching the cannabis scene due to the influence of Gatewood Galbraith.
Galbraith ran for governor of Kentucky five times, failing in each campaign, but he was a prominent supporter of marijuana legalization.
When Galbraith passed, Miller wrote an article in agreement with Galbraith that marijuana should be legalized.
Miller started advocating for hemp when former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (now a Representative for Kentucky’s 1st congressional district) requested his help in legalizing hemp in Kentucky.
Despite opposition from Kentucky’s governor—Steve Beshear at the time—and the Speaker of the House, they successfully legalized hemp in 2013.
This caught the attention of US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
In 2014, Miller worked with Senator McConnell to draft the hemp pilot programs language in the 2014 Farm Bill, which set the stage for full hemp legalization in 2018.
Shortly after the 2014 Farm Bill became law, Kentucky attempted to import seeds from Italy to start its pilot program, but the DEA seized the seeds.
Miller successfully represented Kentucky in a lawsuit against the DEA, allowing the pilot program to continue and paving the way for programs in other states.
Today, Miller is the general counsel for the US Hemp Roundtable and is the member-in-charge at the Lexington office of Frost Brown Todd where he represents dozens of clients involved in the hemp industry.
The US Hemp Roundtable, which was formerly the Kentucky Hemp Industry Coalition, is a nonprofit, self-regulation organization that currently consists of over 60 companies who represent every part of the supply chain, “from seed to sale.”
Companies in the organization function as either part of the Board of Directors or as members.
Members of the Roundtable participate in developing policy, in-person meetings, and have access to networking events.
Companies on the Board of Directors govern the organization, and the Board appoints Officers and an Executive Committee.
Some of the companies on the Board include CW Hemp, CV Sciences, CBDistillery, and Bluebird Botanicals.
The Roundtable was formed in early 2017 with the primary goal of legalizing hemp at the federal level.
The organization utilized several means to advocate for the plant.
“Our efforts included an aggressive, targeted, grass-tops lobbying campaign that brought leading farmers and business executives to Washington, with complimentary grassroots efforts that resulted in hundreds of thousands of targeted emails sent to Members of Congress,” states the Roundtable on its website.
The hard work paid off, as just shy of its second anniversary, the Roundtable accomplished its mission when the 2018 Farm Bill was passed.
Although it has achieved its primary objective, the Roundtable has plenty of work left to do to protect and develop the nascent hemp industry.
Miller says the organization is now heavily focused on legalizing hemp at the state level.
“The Farm Bill legalizes hemp products but allows states to be more restrictive,” said Miller in a phone interview with The CBD Insider. “We’re trying to get as many states as possible to pass legislation that makes hemp products, particularly CBD, available for retail sale.”
According to the organization’s website, they are focused on four aspects moving forward, including hemp legalization at the state level:
The industry is also playing a waiting game with the FDA regarding regulations for CBD.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said it could take years to develop the necessary regulatory framework for CBD. Alternatively, he mentioned that Congress could expedite the process by passing legislation.
In either case, the departure of Commissioner Gottlieb leaves the hemp-derived CBD industry in limbo.
Despite the lack of regulations, the Roundtable is working closely with a self-regulatory organization called the US Hemp Authority.
The Authority oversees a certification program to set high standards for quality in the industry.
Since its inception, the Roundtable wanted to create a guidance plan for hemp cultivation and processing.
The motivation was to demonstrate that hemp products could be made safely and to highlight the brands that were making safe products.
“The biggest challenge in our industry isn’t the DEA, the FDA, or the USDA,” said Miller. “It’s the companies that are selling CBD improperly and making medical claims.”
With this in mind, the Roundtable’s plan would self-regulate the hemp industry and weed out the bad actors.
“Every agriculture industry worth its salt has a self-regulatory program. It’s even more important for hemp though because we not only have to demonstrate our products are safe and non-toxic, but also demonstrate that our products are not marijuana,” said Miller.
“That’s a challenge soybeans, corn, and other commodities don’t have.”
During the drafting process, the plan went out to more than 28,000 industry leaders and activists for comments.
After months of discussions and revisions, the Roundtable released the final version of Guidance Plan 1.0 in May 2018. The members of the Roundtable approved it shortly after.
Once the Roundtable approved the guidance plan, it gave oversight of the program to the newly formed US Hemp Authority.
In March 2019, the US Hemp Authority awarded a certification seal to 13 companies that passed a third-party audit and met the standards of Guidance Plan 1.0.
The companies who have received the seal to date are:
The US Hemp Authority is now in the process of improving the program by creating Guidance Plan 2.0.
According to Miller, this second iteration will incorporate feedback from more members in the industry than the previous plan.
The Authority expects to complete Guidance Plan 2.0 by the end of 2019.
While the public has been quick to support hemp, support is likewise growing for marijuana.
It is fair to wonder if impending marijuana legalization endangers the future of hemp.
While Miller believes cannabis legalization is inevitable, he doesn’t expect marijuana to overshadow hemp.
“I think we’ve seen hemp become too big to fail,” said Miller. “There are just so many more applications for hemp.”
Thankfully, with Jonathan Miller and the US Hemp Roundtable, it seems hemp is in good hands.
However, the industry still has hurdles and obstacles it needs to overcome.
That’s why Miller and the Roundtable want those interested in hemp to do their part.
“We encourage people to come to our website and sign up as a hemp supporter,” said Miller. “And getting in touch with their state legislators with a strong, coherent message is the most important thing they can do right now.”