OLYMPIA, Wa., Feb. 10, 2015 – By a unanimous 7-0 vote today, a Washington state House committee approved a bill that would authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying the federal prohibition on the same.
House Bill 1552 (HB1552) was introduced by Rep. Matthew Shea (R-Spokane Valley) and fifteen co-sponsors. It not only designates industrial hemp as an “agricultural product” as Senate Bill 5012 (SB5012), a similar bill that recently passed the state Senate does, it also includes all the structural framework needed to get the hemp market up and running in the state.
“Industrial hemp is used in many ways, from hemp milk to hempcrete, which is a mold- and fire-resistant building material. Even our nation’s founding fathers grew hemp,” said Shea. “I introduced House Bill 1552 to legalize industrial hemp in Washington and create a new industry with jobs and a positive impact on our state’s economy.”
Passage into law will ensure that Washington will join join five other states – Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont – that have already passed similar measures. Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. Oregon and Tennessee Agricultural departments recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon in those states too.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.
But, since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.
Early in 2014, , President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
HB1552 follows up on the farm bill’s authorization for state-level hemp research, but goes a step further by authorizing industrial development of the crop as well. This is an essential first step forward, and will likely need to be followed by additional legislation implementing the program, unless – like in Colorado and Vermont – courageous farmers start growing industrial hemp without further authorization.
The bill now moves to the House Rules Committee, which considers all bills reported from policy and fiscal committees and determines whether, and in what order, to schedule their consideration on the floor of the House. HB1552 needs to pass by majority vote before the full House can consider it.
For Washington: Follow all the steps to support this bill at THIS LINK
For All Other States: Take action in your state to push legislators to introduce and support bills to legalize hemp farming by clicking HERE.