Legislation in Washington State Would Nullify Federal Ban on Hemp Farming

SB 5954 was introduced by Democratic State Sens. Bob Hasegawa and Maralyn Chase. It reads, in part, “Industrial hemp is an agricultural product which may be grown, produced, processed, possessed, and commercially traded in the state pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.”

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Washington State Will Keep Pushing For Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp has gained a lot of ground this year, with legislation introduced and moving in several states, and laws being signed in Colorado and Vermont already. In fact, just last week farmers in Colorado harvested the first U.S. hemp crop in decades – and they did it in complete disregard for federal law. Hemp is such a versatile plant – with uses ranging from food to textiles – and is so heavily imported by the U.S., that it simply makes no sense not to grow it.

HB 1888 would allow for the production of industrial hemp in Washington state. The bill has already made it through two public hearings, and is currently being held in the House Appropriations Committee, where it ran into a last minute deadline this spring. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Matt Shea, has spoken repeatedly about the many uses of hemp, and told me in April that “this is a phenomenal bill, expanding freedom, allowing jobs to be created – a new market here in Washington state – the potential state economic impact is in the tens of millions if not hundreds of millions.”

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Hemp is Back, Finally

If ever there was a lesson in why granting power to busy-bodies and petty-tyrants is a bad idea, it is the decades-long federal ban on hemp production. Allowing a small cadre of bureaucrats to rule over whole sections of the earth and its occupants has stunted economic growth by limiting production and employment opportunities. It has largely destroyed the intellectual capital that existed in the United States for hundreds of years and finally there is hope this will end.

Since the 1950s hemp has been considered a controlled substance – despite having negligible levels of THC – and thus farmers have been prohibited from growing hemp for industrial purposes. This hasn’t meant that it cannot be imported, as recent estimates put the annual sales of hemp-based products at roughly half a billion dollars in the United States. You see, hemp is too dangerous to be grown Montana, but it’s perfectly safe when produced in say, Alberta, Canada.

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Efforts to Legalize Hemp In Kentucky Bring Together Activists, Lawmakers and Business Leaders

Mention hemp and it will likely evoke images of long-haired hippies in sandals banging drums and burning incense. But more likely than not, you will find today’s major players in the full-court press to legalize industrial hemp wearing suits and ties, not tie-dye T-shirts.

In fact, the coalition driving the hemp movement in Kentucky features prominent business leaders, farmers and political figures, including state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

Comer began pushing for legalization within a month of taking office in 2011. His efforts paid off when the Kentucky legislature passed SB50 last March. The law legalizes industrial hemp farming in the Bluegrass State, but the federal government must first lift its ban before farmers can begin planting the crop.

“I have long believed that industrial hemp had great potential as a profitable crop for Kentucky farmers. Hemp is used to produce paper, clothing, cosmetics, construction materials, automobile parts, foods, and thousands of other products. We know that hemp grows well in Kentucky and elsewhere in the U.S.,” Comer said. “Kentucky was the leading hemp-producing state in the mid-19th century, and we ramped production up to record levels for the war effort in the 1940s. We should be growing hemp, and making hemp products in Kentucky and the United States. I will do everything in my power to make hemp legalization a reality.”

In fact, a recent Department of Justice memo declaring it will not challenge marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado could pave the way for hemp production in Kentucky, although Attorney General Jack Conway disagrees with that assessment.

A February 1938 article in Popular Mechanics dubbed industrial hemp the “New Billion-Dollar Crop. “ After years of declining production, the magazine predicted a renaissance with the invention of a machine that removed the fiber-bearing cortex from the stalk, opening the door for low cost production of products ranging from rope to paper.

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Domino Effect: Hemp Nullification on the Way Up After Feds Back Down

Nullification is a funny thing.

We can’t always tell where or when the next domino will fall, but trends matter.

When it comes hemp cultivation, the federal government isn’t having an effect on the states; rather it’s the states having an effect on each other, and in turn influencing the federal government!

Last year’s legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington is the gift that keeps on giving.

Last August, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice essentially backed down in the face of marijuana legalization by popular vote in both states, saying it would not challenge the new state laws.  It’s nearly impossible to enforce these types of prohibitions without local and state support, so in an effort to prevent further embarrassment, the feds issued a stand down order for prosecutors in Colorado and Washington. Now it’s not just Coloradans and Washingtonians taking advantage of this turn in events since the feds abandoned ship. Advocates of industrial hemp see the DOJ announcement as an open door for state production of the crop.

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Dominoes Start to Fall? Kentucky AG Commissioner Says Yes to Hemp Production

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Another domino tumbled late last week.

It started when  Eric Holder’s Department of Justice essentially backed down in the face of marijuana legalization by popular vote in both Colorado and Washington state, saying it would not challenge the new state laws defying federal statute, as long as the states create “tightly regulated” markets that address eight federal “enforcement priorities.”

Then, seven national law enforcement agencies threw a hissy-fit. They sent an angry letter to the DOJ complaining about the enforcement decision. Their main concern?

The failure of the Department of Justice to challenge state policies that clearly contradict Federal law is both unacceptable and unprecedented. The failure of the Federal government to act in this matter is an open invitation to other states to legalize marijuana in defiance of federal law.” [Emphasis original]

Huffington Post columnist Ryan Grim grasped the significance of the law enforcement panic attack, “If there had been doubt about how meaningful Holder’s move was, the fury reflected in the police response eliminates it,” he wrote.

That very same day, Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer proved the cops’ fears legitimate, but with a twist. He said the DOJ retreat gives Kentucky the green light to move forward with hemp cultivation. According to an Ag Commission press release, “In a landmark ruling, the Justice Department has reversed its policy and will honor state laws regarding regulated marijuana sales. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a national leader in the industrial hemp movement, believes the ruling includes the production of industrial hemp.”

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Vermont Law Nullifies Federal Hemp Ban

MONTPELIER, Vt. – In June, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Senate Bill 157 (S157) into law legalizing hemp cultivation, nullifying the federal prohibition on growing the crop.

Industrial hemp falls under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. It technically remains legal to grow industrial hemp, but farmers must obtain a permit from the DEA, a nearly impossible feat. The new state law opens the door for Vermont farmers to grow it anyway.

Hemp is an agricultural product which may be grown as a crop, produced, possessed, and commercially traded in Vermont pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. The cultivation of hemp shall be subject to and comply with the requirements of the accepted agricultural practices adopted under section 4810 of this title.

The new Vermont law requires hemp farmers to register with the state and allows for state inspections. It also stipulates the THC level (the active ingredient in hemp’s cousin, marijuana) must remain below .03 percent. The registration process will also include a disclosure statement letting the farmer know hemp production violates federal law – essentially a “buyer beware” provision.

“The reason we want to push for a change is that hemp is potentially a valuable crop,” Rep. Caroline Partridge, chairwoman of the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products told the Huffington Post. “People want to grow it. Hemp oil is a valuable product, and there’s so much of the hemp plant that can be used for very, very productive purposes.”

Industrial hemp has literally thousands of uses, including production of paper, clothing, cosmetics, construction materials, automobile parts and foods. It also has incredible potential as a biofuel.

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