Despite unconstitutional federal restrictions on industrial hemp farming, the industry last year netted half a billion dollars in sales in the United States.

The Weed Blog reports:

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, has released final estimates of the size of the 2015 U.S. retail market for hemp products. Data from market research supports an estimate of total retail sales of hemp food, supplements and body care products in the United States at $283 million….The HIA has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2015 to be at least $573 million.

The next step is very obvious, according to Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association.

“We need Congress to pass federal legislation to allow commercial hemp farming nationally, for this ripe industry to finally be able to bloom,” he said.

But congressional action anytime soon seems unlikely. The best way to move forward is for states to simply ignore federal prohibition and open the door to hemp farming within their borders. By removing one layer of law, states open the door to create a market. Experience in states with legal hemp production has shown many farmers will risk the very small threat of federal enforcement when states when they eliminate state prohibition.

Technically it is “legal” to grow hemp, but farmers must obtain a permit from the DEA. Up until 2014, that happened just once in over four decades. Since then states have taken action to nullify this federal regulation in practice.

Last year, a bill was signed into law in North Dakota that legalizes hemp farming within the state.  Then the Maine legislature overrode the governor’s veto and passed LD4, which amends the current state hemp farming law by removing a requirement that licenses are contingent on approval by the Federal Government.

Connecticut joined North Dakota and Maine, but took a slightly different approach. Passage of HB5780 into law removed any mention of industrial hemp from the Connecticut criminal code that classifies marijuana as a banned controlled substance. This means Connecticut authorities will essentially treat industrial hemp like other plants, such as tomatoes. By removing the state prohibition on hemp, residents of Connecticut will have an open door to start industrial farming should they be willing to risk violating the ongoing federal prohibition.

In 2013, Vermont passed a hemp act that was very similar to the new Connecticut law, practically speaking. When Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill, he emphasized that hemp cultivation was still illegal under federal law. Despite the threat of federal prosecution, several farmers planted small hemp plots that very first year.

According to HIA around 3,997 acres of hemp crops were planted in seven states in 2015.

The lucrative industry on such a small scale indicate how much more prosperous hemp farming would be if federal restrictions did not exist and more farms were allowed to grow and harvest industrial hemp as President George Washington did on all five of his farms. It also shows how effective state actions are in nullifying federal regulations.

This situation is exactly why the Founders left such regulatory authority to the states and why we should continue the same tradition by rejecting unconstitutional federal laws regarding industrial hemp.The more states nullify federal hemp laws the more accepted the industry becomes and the harder it is for them to shut it down. Without state cooperation the feds cannot possibly hope to enforce their own laws, especially when economic freedom brings economic prosperity along with it.

TJ Martinell

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