Opportunity for industrial hemp included in newly signed Farm Bill

hemp legalizationWhen President Obama has signed the Farm Bill last week, it included a little touted but exciting amendment – one that would allow State Agriculture Departments and colleges and universities to grow hemp. The amendment specifies that this would be for academic or research purposes only and would only apply to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law. But so far in 2014, industrial hemp legislation has been introduced or carried over in thirteen states: Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey (carried over from 2013), New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington (two bills carried over from 2013), West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“With the U.S. hemp industry estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal law to allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for research means that we will finally begin to regain the knowledge that unfortunately has been lost over the past fifty years,” says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a national grassroots advocacy organization working to revitalize industrial hemp production in the U.S.. “The market opportunities for hemp are incredibly promising,” said Steenstra, “ranging from textiles and health foods to home construction and even automobile manufacturing. This is not just a boon to U.S. farmers, this is a boon to U.S. manufacturing industries as well.”

hemp cultivationIn addition to the Farm Bill amendment, two stand-alone industrial hemp bills have been introduced in the 113th Congress so far. H.R. 525, the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” was introduced in the U.S. House on Feb. 6, 2013, and the companion bill, S. 359, was introduced in the U.S. Senate soon thereafter on Feb. 14, 2013. The bills define industrial hemp, exclude it from the definition of “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and give states the exclusive authority to regulate the growing and processing of the crop under state law. If passed, the bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp.

hemp productsStates are moving forward to legalize the production of hemp, including thirty-two states that have introduced pro-hemp legislation and twenty that have passed pro-hemp legislation. Other states have passed bills creating  commissions, authorizing research, passing resolutions or to study the issue.

This potential highly lucrative results of this coming into play could mean big money in states coffers. And with the high versatility of hemp – for food products, clothing, textiles and more – it just could be an industry that, if adopted across the country, could truly spur our economy to recovery. And given that hemp is NOT pot and therefore has no chance of being an additive drug, it’s something whose time has come.

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