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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