Lost in the shuffle on election day, voters in two states legalized industrial hemp, setting the foundation to further nullify federal prohibition in practice.
Provisions authorizing the cultivation of industrial hemp were included in the voter initiatives legalizing marijuana in California and Massachusetts.
The new Massachusetts law prohibits any state interference with hemp production in the state.
Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person 21 years of age or older shall not be arrested, prosecuted, penalized, sanctioned or disqualified and is not subject to seizure or forfeiture of assets for possessing, producing, processing, manufacturing, purchasing, obtaining, selling or otherwise transferring or delivering hemp.
The new law does not require any license to grow hemp, and it creates no state regulatory structure. This will have a similar effect as a bill passed in Connecticut last year removing hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances. In short, the state will treat industrial hemp like other plants, such as tomatoes. By ending state prohibition, residents of Massachusetts have an open door to start industrial farming should they be willing to risk violating the ongoing federal prohibition.
Provisions in California’s Prop 64 allow the cultivation of industrial hemp as an agricultural product for agricultural or academic purposes. The law also creates a structure to regulate hemp production in the state. The California law does not require growers to get federal permission to cultivate hemp in the state.
FEDERAL FARM BILL
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 “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed 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.
In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. The new California and Massachusetts laws ignore federal prohibition and authorize commercial farming and production anyway.
By rejecting any need for federal approval, state legalization of hemp sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. California and Massachusetts will now join other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Vermont and others – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.
While prospective hemp growers still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, these laws clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.
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. On Feb. 2 of 2015, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.
HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 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!”.
This new laws in California and Massachusetts represent an essential first step toward hemp freedom in these states.
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