Hemp Barons 0029: Jonathan Miller | US Hemp RoundTable

Jonathan Miller was leading a very successful political career when this Kentucky attorney drafted a hemp-supporting article which changed his life's trajectory.    The article launched a cascade of events which eventually lead to the creation of the US Hemp RoundTable.   Jonathan speaks with Joy Beckerman about his responsibilities as President of this organization and how it's the driving force behind the country's hemp policies.   

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Dan Humiston:
Welcome to another episode of Hemp Barons. I'm Dan Humiston in today's Hemp Barons arrived in Hemp by accident in the midst of his very successful political career. This Kentucky attorney wrote a Hemp supporting article which sparked a cascade of events propelling him to a leadership role within the Hemp movement. Let's join Joy's conversation with Jonathan Miller from the U.S. Hemp roundtable.

Joy Beckerman:
Well, hello, Jonathan, and thank you for being with us on Hemp Barons today.

Jonathan Miller:
Great to be with you, Joy.

I get the privilege of working with you on so many projects. Had to advance the Hemp industry and to set standards and operate to organize the community, to educate. And most importantly, I closest to my heart. Of course, is to abdicate. So I want to first tell our listeners that Jonathan Miller is the managing partner for the largest loss. I'm in Kentucky. Strauss-Kahn Todd, a Harvard man who are so lucky to have him Hemp and that he's also the former treasurer for the state of Kentucky and also the former head of the Democratic Party. Is that correct, Jonathan, for the state of Kentucky?

Jonathan Miller:
That is right. There are other jobs for four months. And I tell people there say I ever get really sick. I'll I'll take that job again because it's the longest four months of my life. Oh.

Joy Beckerman:
Oh, my God.

Joy Beckerman:
I'm all with him. Where would you needed when things get needed in as they often do? In any movement or in any revolution, particularly when the scope of the promising, viable and versatile Hemp plant, we're dealing with an industrial revolution, a political revolution, agricultural and public health revolution.

Joy Beckerman:
I just don't think of anyone better to be going for it. Well, tell us. Of course. How about like you found him brought in by the powerful Hemp?

Jonathan Miller:
How the book of power really is. A funny story, but it's it's sort of an illustration of the change that we've seen over the last 6, 7 years in support for Hemp and for products like CVD. I never really engaged on this issue for most of my life, for my entire political career. It just wasn't anything that was was on my radar screen and in like most politicians in my conservative Kentucky. I took the easy route and said, OK, I'm going to be against Cannabis because, you know, I didn't really know much about it and was that it was a safe position. But there was a gentleman who had been running for office for for 20 years. He ran for, I think twelve, twelve times. Never one. His name was Gatewood Galbraith. And one of the reasons he never won was because he was really a proud supporter of the legalization of all forms of cannabis. And in a conservative state, it didn't help that he sort of got pigeonholed as the marijuana guy. Well, he passed away about seven years ago and I as a tribute to him, I took a look at his issue and I realized that he was right. So I wrote an article for The Daily Beast and said that Gatewood was right and in his honor, we should legalize cannabis.

Jonathan Miller:
So I got a call from the Lexington Herald leader, my local paper, and they asked me, well, we're doing a series on Hemp. Looks like you're for marijuana. So will you write something worth Hemp? And I said, well, I don't really know the difference between Hemp marijuana. I'll be happy to look into it and write something nice. I did. I I really not only discovered the difference, but Kentucky has a rich centuries long history with the crop. Henry Clay was a Hemp farmer. You were the center of Hemp production for two centuries. So I wrote that piece. That piece was noticed by our commissioner of agriculture, Jamie Comer. You just run a campaign wanting to bring Hemp to Kentucky. He said, We helped me out and I said, sure, we got nothing to lose. We're not going to win, but happy to help. And my God. After six months of education and traveling the state, the bill that we proposed passed both houses and almost unanimously into Ducky. Mitch McConnell took notice. He became a Hemp supporter after being opposed. And that launched my career. So not. I went from zero to a thousand in a few months having nothing to do with Hemp 2. Now, it's been my entire my entire career.

Joy Beckerman:
Well, I'm going to say zero to hero. And if that isn't a testament to and we're watching it happen all over Jonathan and the power of well-informed people being very they can change their mind and change your mind. And we're watching people change their minds as they get information. They say, of course, the truth passes through three stages. First, it is violently opposed, then it is ridiculed. Then it is accepted as becoming self evident. And here we see what what you know, of course, we are well familiar with my history. I've been involved with Hemp for nearly 30 years. And of course, Gatewood Galbraith was a hero in those early days. And I recall very vividly when he died and what that meant to the movement. And this is actually the first time I've heard that story, Jonathan. So I'm a little emotional at the moment because I didn't realize that connection. And I didn't know that that Gatewood was actually the impetus for your hearing, the call of the plant. I'm following up on it. And look what we have done. You then have this idea. I know you work in a couple of organizations in Hemp to learn as you were building your foundation. And then you have this idea for advocacy to get people together. My understanding is it started in your basement. When you tell us something about how the new US Hemp roundtable, the most powerful advocacy organization in the history of the Hemp movement. How did this.

Jonathan Miller:
Yeah. And I want to emphasize that my basement is a lot safer than the basement and silence of the way. I don't want to get people to say, my dear, but we as part of the effort that we were, I just mentioned trying to get legislation passed here in Kentucky and then work with Mitch McConnell to what ultimately became the 2014 farm bill, get the language passed. We realized that the Hemp industry had already an amazing grassroots organization and the Hemp Industries Association, the gold standard kind of grandfathers of the Hemp movement. But there was a need for a grass tops organization where companies that were wanting to seek legal change could come together to use their resources and hire professional lobbyists both in Washington and then ultimately across the country to get the laws passed that we needed to accept. We found four companies in Kentucky and we started what was called the Kentucky Hemp Industry Council. But that's just slowly. And each of them pitched in five grants. So we had a twenty thousand dollar budget that first year and it just slowly grew. We got to the point in 2017 where the vast majority of her companies were not Kentucky. And we we want to focus on the federal level so we reconstitute as the US Hemp roundtable. And now that has grown to over 85 companies and organizations. Our budget is over one point five million dollars and it's allowed us not only to help get things like the 2013 Farm Bill passed and help represent the industry with the FDA and other USDA up in Washington. But also we've been able to hire lobbyists in about 15 states to seek passage of legislation there. And we're successful in Florida, Texas, Ohio, among many other states. So we still got a long way to go. And we got, of course, that FDA issue looming over us. But, you know, together, the US Hemp roundtable and the HHS really makes a tremendous grass tops grassroots team to represent the industry.

Joy Beckerman:
Well, I know that as president of the Hemp Industries Association and of course, as you well know, we formed a 1 6 non-profit and trade association in 1994. And we knew that as things got really real, the 2014 farm bill in particular, we now are getting a seat at the table here.

Jonathan Miller:
Really big one. We need lawyers. We need resources. If we're so forgetting federally legalizing Hemp, which of course, is not the same as something legal in all 50 states, even under the 2014 farm bill, of course, Hemp was legalized in terms of agricultural pilot programs based on licensing and state departments with those state controls would take advantage of that of that privilege and that right.

Joy Beckerman:
And then pass legislation on their state basis as well as, of course, institutions of higher learning. But the marathon, all of the underlying movement that got us to that place are folks that, oh, we've made it known.

Joy Beckerman:
Now we're just getting started. And the fact is the marathon really begins now. And so to have someone of your intelligence, someone of your experience and all of the resources and assets that you bring in terms of your connections and support staff and really the collaborative spirit that you must have learned. And I'd like to actually talk a little bit about that, Jonathan. I often described you as the most collaborative activist in the history of the Hemp movement. And I'm going back 30 years now. So when I say that, I don't say that lightly.

Joy Beckerman:
Is it because of your political background that you learn to put in the voices of everybody and distill them and moderate them and work through them? Is it through your politics or was it something else? Was it younger and more? What brought this to us?

Joy Beckerman:
Where did it come from? Well,

Jonathan Miller:
You know, I thank you for for applying this. I just for your compliment. I just I really learned the value of teamwork as a leader from a really early age. My my first election, I was I was elected to my temple youth group in Lexington and ultimately became the national president. What was what's called the North American Federation of Temple University, which is the Reform Movements Jewish Organization. I really learned so much about the importance of not only collaboration, but of lifting up voices from from every from every level of the organization. And I took that I my next next position. I was national director for Al Gore's presidential campaign. And that led to a career in staff politics and then ultimately in my own politics. But, you know, Mike, my biggest belief in politics is, is that the value of bipartisanship. And I am a very proud liberal Democrat. And and, you know, my views are very strong about the need for Democratic leadership. I'll be supporting whoever runs against the president this year.

Jonathan Miller:
But I am from a from my youngest in politics.

Jonathan Miller:
I really understood the desperate need to work across the aisle and have been able to develop a really wonderful relationship with Mitch McConnell and his staffs. And, you know, I disagree with Mitch McConnell on a lot of big issues, but we we agree on Hemp and we put aside those other issues and work together really, really well. And I go. I joke that if you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to be a Hemp lawyer, I would have laughed at you if you had told me ten years ago that I was going to be going around the country praising Mitch McConnell. I would have kicked you out of the office, but that's what happens in it. It is Democrats, Republicans, grass roots grass tops. It is. It's the only way that we're going to work.

Jonathan Miller:
And I'm you know, I'm I'm optimistic that we're in a really difficult period for our country in terms of polarization. I still am optimistic that we can pass that. I think the next generation is believes in collaboration, bipartisanship. But but, you know, Hemp is a testament that when you put aside party labels, you put aside your own personal interests, that we can get things done and get them done quickly and so beautifully.

Joy Beckerman:
And and as I used to always attribute this and say Jonathan Miller coined just phrase and sometimes I don't always get it in there anymore because it's become such a part of my vernacular. And that is you made up the phrase you may have. Ninety nine problems with Mitch McConnell.

Joy Beckerman:
But Hemp won a nod to a popular rap song.

Joy Beckerman:
And thank you for that, because I as you know, even though I'm a senior paralegal who's been in Hemp for so very long, but also has raised two boys through college, they're now 25 and 27.

Joy Beckerman:
And I did that by being a compliance and complex civil litigation paralegal and very high end firm on the West Coast.

Joy Beckerman:
And so sometimes and so most of my clients are lawyers, I think continuing legal education seminars and I'm going on and on with this academic stuff. And that phrase really helps break up the room and get a laugh and relieve tension. And so thank you.

Joy Beckerman:
You may have 99 problems with Mitch McConnell, but Hemp 8 1. It sure ain't.

Jonathan Miller:
JZEE. Stole that for me, so I'll be suing him later. Yeah.

Dan Humiston:
I want to take a quick break. Thank you for listening to today's show and to invite you to check out all of our other Cannabis podcast as the industry's number one Cannabis podcast network. We are constantly adding new shows to go to MJBulls.com, to see our new shows and to become part of the Cannabis podcast network.

Joy Beckerman:
Were you born then a 5 or one for advocacy organization dovetailing so beautifully with with the ACA? And I'm very proud, of course, as my as my role as regulatory officer and industry liaison for a little Hemp company in over 40 countries. I have the privilege of serving not only on the board of the U.S. Hemp roundtable, but also as an executive vice president and on the Web site to the US Hemp roundtable, a tech supporter dot com. So people please go to Hemp supported dot com either from your phone or tablet or laptop. Your Honor, this evening, as soon as you can get to one and just sign up for the newsletter, because those voices that we gather when we need these calls to action. It's amazing. And the FDA, of course, not only do we have issues around in three states, actually South Dakota, Idaho and Mississippi that have passed no Hemp laws. And New Hampshire, of course, that hasn't actually passed. A lot of these in the ground, along with the very many other states are forty six other states, some of which already have wonderful robust programs that need very little tweaking and others that are going to require tweaking in the next several legislative sessions and regulatory sessions as the various climates in various cultures come to be.

Joy Beckerman:
There are immediate action calls that are launched through the roundtable through Hemp, Dakota, dot com. And on top of that, and these are the things that fascinate me. And my background in law allows me, I think, to appreciate the work that you do on a whole nother level. So even some things, such as when it is when the farm bill was signed, two thousand and 18 this year would temper 2015 2018. Of course, Hemp was finally removed from the Controlled Substances Act and took it reclaimed really its place in the broad light of day among America's other agricultural crops in the 1946 agricultural marketing and now new research. Or perhaps you had a team of associates or one or two research, the different states that actually had caveats in their own state, uniform controlled substances. Back until the listeners out there. No, we don't just have a federal controlled substances Act. Basically, each state also has their own Controlled Substances Act or their own listing and ways of dealing with that. It's interesting that many of them had caveats varied within their statute.

Joy Beckerman:
That said, if there is a scheduling change at the federal level, it will automatically be made at the state level. And I'll be darned if you didn't take the power of your law degree and in all of the resources and and influence that that brings and send letters to every single one of those. I don't think it was a state attorney general. I mean, I'll let you answer that question in a second and reminded them here in your statute at blah blah section. Your statute says that if there's a scheduling change at the federal level, it needs to automatically change at the state level or within to tell you that there's been a scheduling change. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jonathan Miller:
Yeah. You know, we we've been working on state lobbying for for some time before the farm bill passed. And so we're we're familiar with what just the very states haven't in terms of Controlled Substances Act. It's obviously 20, 30 years ago there was some sort of an effort to spread around a model controlled substance act. A whole lot of states adopted. Many of them made alterations to them. But, you know, it was it was kind of the default search for many states. And within that model act, there was often language. There was language that had either a automatic scheduling when it was these scheduled on a central level or it authorized a state official to be schedule once it's scheduled on several level. So we found all that. You know, I think we copy the attorneys general on all these letters, but generally there was a agency official who would be under statute responsible for making such change. And and and we had some we had some good response. We had some states say, no, we disagree with you. And then we had states ignore us. But the first big victory was in Texas, where the Texas health commissioner said, OK, you're right. And now Hemp is it's no longer controlled substance. And it this is the fourth Texas passed their own law. So it I think it really helped us lay the groundwork for Texas passing the law, which is one of the better ones in the country.

Joy Beckerman:
Absolutely. I mean, and that was unanimous. And apparently it wasn't. Or was there only one or two dissents in the legislature? You'll have to refresh my memory. I know Wendy Foster and and Coleman Hemp both told me something historical, like the Texas state legislature has not agreed on that uniform level in years and years.

Joy Beckerman:
Do you remember that or something?

Jonathan Miller:
I don't remember the numbers, but I can tell you that every state has been to it's either been unanimous or just two or three votes against us. I mean, Ohio and Florida and Texas and California all the way up to are the the the difficulties we've had over the last week.

Jonathan Miller:
We've been going through every committee unanimously, every floor, nearly unanimously. And again, it's just a testament to the bipartisan support for this issue. Once people understand the plant and the difference between Hemp marijuana, that and the value of it to the farmers, it becomes a no brainer for so politicians of both parties.

Joy Beckerman:
So and then we get into the into the nitty gritty of it here, that on December 20th, when this historical form, though a piece of Mishkin path making Hemp an agricultural commodity for commercial crops and directing the USDA to create a program which of course they're in the process of creating.

Joy Beckerman:
Now, on that same day, former FDA Commissioner Gottlieb announced it is a violation of federal law to market TBD as a dietary supplement and a food. Now, those of us who had been involved and are deeply involved in the Hemp extract are Hemp even the industry that was nothing new to us. The FDA had been saying that for some nearly four years at the time through their FDA Q on their Web site. And so it wasn't news to us, but apparently it was a revelation of sorts to a smattering of agencies from local city departments and city attorneys and police chiefs to state attorney generals and State Department of Health and State Departments of AG and everything in between various levels of jurisdiction. And so we start to see this reaction. And we're, in fact, still seeing it today where where these states are saying, oh, my goodness, what have we done? We have got all the CBD being sold as a dietary supplement or in food and beverage products. And as it turns out, the FDA says it's illegal. It's a violation of federal law. When the reality is and I'm going to let you with the attorney, even though, you know, I speak about this ad nauseum, could you just give a synopsis for folks of Akin to a one F freebie, the eye and the investigational new drug occlusion?

Joy Beckerman:
And really what our informed legal opinion is, thanks to you and an army of lawyers as to to lead the legal impact of offensive guidance.

Joy Beckerman:
This guidance position that folks are incorrectly categorizing as the law is.

Jonathan Miller:
So to try to boil it down into into layman's terms, the Dena.. There is that under under federal law. There is a procedure where if some someone in this case it was GW Pharma or a British based pharmaceutical company comes up with a a a new product, a new drug for the investigational part of the act of the FDA jurisdiction is that. Companies, other companies cannot sell those products, introduce them into interstate commerce unless those products had been already marketed as nutritional supplements, dietary supplements prior to the filing of these investigational documents. We believe that GW farmers entry to this came after well after CBD had been marketed as nutritional supplements across the globe and that that the trigger for prohibiting the sale of other Trevett Hill others to sell CBD was was not reached at the right point. So if this went to litigation and the FDA tried to issue enforcement actions based on this policy, we would sue. And because we think we are in the right legal framework, however, the FDA has never done that. They have never issued a formal regulation or formal rule that says that CBT cannot be marketed as a dietary supplement or food additives.

Jonathan Miller:
They have said that on line. They have said that in speeches. That is their policy. But that is not a final regulation. It is not. It is not a matter of law. And so we believe that in that context, CBD continue can continue to be sold as a nutritional supplement. If the FDA ever stepped in that we would we would fight that. The good news is the FDA has not only never issued an enforcement action against the sale of CPD unless those companies are making false marketing claims or medical claims, which is why we applaud them for that. And as as you know, musher listeners know, the FDA has put itself on a on an ad on a quick pass to come up with a final regulatory structure that would allow for the sale of CBP. And we're we're very hopeful in the next several weeks there'll be some real developments that we can be excited about. But at this point, CBD is being sold and as you know, all across the country. And we believe that it is not a violation of federal law for the reasons like a state.

Joy Beckerman:
And as these reactions, which I've come to categorize as what I call lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.

Joy Beckerman:
As we look at domino and cascading effect on all of these statements put forth by the FDA, and so whether it's on the Crest website, whether it's a press release, whether it's a guidance position or something that the former or current commissioner or any number of representatives from FDA say publicly, it doesn't make it the law.

Joy Beckerman:
They have not issued a final agency action yet. And when they do, if they do, I don't actually think they will. But if they did, we would respond to it. We would appeal and continue to utilize everything that we have within the Administrative Procedures Act to protect our legal standing. And God forbid, I take it to the judicial branch. And as you know, Amelia, the Hemp Industry Association seems to be a four times since our inception in nineteen ninety four, arguably one, three and a half times that we have to preserve legal standing in order to do that. And in one of our cases, of course, we we learned that the hard way. So that's never going to happen again now. And though these this cascade of reaction which results in in a taking away of the ability to sell CBD on the books, as at the retail level, Rothley, the roundtable immediately responded, stepped in. Now, I know that we have a budget for lobbying. We meaning the US Hemp roundtable again, such a privilege to serve on that board a budget every year for lobbying. And as is your practice, we have a vote on which states are going to get the paid lobbyists. They don't work for free. And and then we deploy them. But we have to react when different jurisdictions and different levels and different states, even outside of the legislative session, make decisions that are not sensible and that are not in the best interests of not only the Hemp industry, but in the American consumer who is clearly demanding this property. This Hemp extract or this molecule at minimum within it that has so much promise and that is solving so many problems for folks who are suffering from, you know, occasional sleeplessness, nervousness, pain from exercise and so on and so forth. And you yourself go in, letters are written.

Joy Beckerman:
And the next thing we know, Jonathan, is in Ohio. Jonathan is in Oklahoma. You spend a lot of time on planes responding to these crises. Dena..

Jonathan Miller:
Yeah, I have really this year on my frequent flyer mileage. It's just hitting the roof. I'm I'm on Delta. My my medallion status has been terrific and my wife hasn't decided to kill me yet for traveling so much. So it's it's been it's been a very busy year. And next year, I imagine we'll be as busy as well, because we still have a number of states, like you mentioned, South Dakota, Idaho and Mississippi, still not having Hemp legalized and in battles and states like California and Iowa and others. So over the legality of Hemp Drive CBD. So. But I enjoy it. And it's again, having been in politics generally, most partisan issues, at least finding half the people, you know, on the other side disagreeing with you. It's it's such a wonderful feeling to go into a room and having nearly everyone agree with you and those that don't. Being able to explain to them in ways that often get them to change their minds.

Joy Beckerman:
And a quick nod to to leave that when you introduce me to your wife, I very clearly recall you think he is a things he is just to support the work that you do.

Joy Beckerman:
We have very little time left and I know you and I are both at it at the same event today and we've got crazy schedules. So before I ask you my final question, I just want to make sure the listeners know. Give it a one two punch. We have many members who are cross over, but the Hemp Industry Association again formed in 1994 to join Hemp dot org that's joined Hemp dot org to join the NCAA. And please consider joining the US Hemp roundtable. And at minimum, please sign up for the newsletter at Hemp supporter dot com. That 10 supported dot com. Now the U.S. Hemp roundtable needs funded all the U.S. Hemp authority which has created and so needed in the marketplace. A third party independently verified all. That would show the consumer and law enforcement through this rigorous auditing process. Again, a third party independent auditing process appeals that says this product. This may be the product of quality assured. It's safe source from legal Hemp. Can you tell us a little bit about the US Hemp authority, which by the way is the US Hemp already dot org?

Jonathan Miller:
Jonathan and the little time we have left there now yet I think this is really going to be it has become and will be one of the if not the most critical efforts in the Hemp states. We recognized early on that every industry needs to have high quality standards and use best practices and demonstrates the difference between the good actors and the bad actors in the industry. But for Hemp, it's even more important because we do still have the confusion with marijuana and with CBD. We have frankly a lot of bad actors out there selling products that are CBD or that have high ie toxic chemicals in them or that are making claims that are not proof. And so we we helped set up the US Hemp authority, which now has sets those standards and allows companies who want to meet those standards to go through a third party independent audit in a state. If they pass that, then they can de put a seal of certification on their products that indicate to consumers that the products are safe and to law enforcement that the products are legal. And so far we've had 23 companies when that certification. We've got many dozens other in the pipeline. And let me encourage folks in your audience who have products that they want to demonstrate to consumers our seats and that they're legal to go to us Hemp authority dot work to see how you can get certified. And importantly, we're going through a process. It's always a process improvement. We are going through the version 2.0 of our guidance plan of all of our standards and practices and that we're asking for public comment. So go to Hemp Authority Dena. work and take a look at our draft plan and let us know what you think about it because we can only improve things if we have a complete input as well as a complete in of the industry.

Joy Beckerman:
Exactly. And as he was Hemp authority dot org and then click the request for comment tab.

Joy Beckerman:
And I'm pleased that we wisely announced this industry and all of the industry partners and industry coalition, but that comment period after having been open since July of closing in two days.

Joy Beckerman:
And of course now my understanding is their entire retail chains that changed that are coming to us and saying we only want there is so much confusion in the marketplace.

Joy Beckerman:
We only want to sell products that carry that heel. So really, if it faces the consumer, it shows the consumer that we are we're talking about a quality assured again and and safe product, which I just think is so important. Jonathan, it is such an honor and a privilege to do this work with you. For me, it's my life's work. It's my life's purpose also.

Joy Beckerman:
So to be able to go through this journey with such leadership skills and diplomacy that you demonstrate and lead the way to for everyone with I I just words cannot express my gratitude to your commitment to this movement and your participation in it better. And may we be working together for many, many years to come. Thank you so much for being on

Joy Beckerman:
The show with me today.

Jonathan Miller:
Well, thank you. The feeling is mutual. We would never be where we are for work, for joy. BECKER So your leadership has been an extraordinary light for the industry and I'm just happy to to hang out with you and try to get some good stuff done.

Joy Beckerman:
We make a heck of a team and maybe I'll see you later today. Thank you again. Jonathan

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