Stick a fork in it… the dark and ugly days of hemp prohibition are almost over – sort of. That’s right folks common sense won the day yesterday. Wednesday morning house Democrats and Republicans passed the Farm Bill, which includes an amendment to allow research on industrial hemp by universities and State agricultural departments – in states which have passed laws approving hemp production. Unfortunately, the Farm Bill’s hemp amendment does not legalize hemp production for industrial uses yet…but there are two bills pending in Congress that could change all of that – House resolution 525, the “industrial hemp farming act of 2013,” and its companion bill, SB 359.
Currently there are 10 states that have already fired up hemp legislation, passing laws which allows for its production: West Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, North Dakota, Maine, Montana, Kentucky, Colorado, California – with more states queuing up, looking to cash in on one of the oldest crops known to man. 2014 could see an additional 11 states join those just given safe harbor by the Farm Bill’s hemp amendment, including; Wisconsin, West Virginia (2013 holdover bill) Hawaii, Washington, Indiana, Tennessee, New Jersey, South Carolina, New York, and Oklahoma…are all anxious to hop on board
“Although I strongly opposed the Republican Farm Bill, I was pleased to see that the bipartisan amendment that I offered with Representatives Blumenauer and Massie was included in the final bill that passed the House of Representatives today,” said Rep. Polis. “This common sense amendment will allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp cultivation is already legal. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that this language becomes law.”
“This is an important victory for farmers, manufacturers, and consumers in Kentucky and across the country. Our amendment paves the way for production of industrial hemp by first allowing America’s academic and research institutions to demonstrate that hemp and the products derived from hemp present a great economic opportunity for our country,” said Rep. Massie. “The inclusion of our industrial hemp amendment in the farm bill reflects widespread support for cultivating industrial hemp and proves Congress can work together in a bipartisan fashion to help the American economy at a time when creating jobs is a national priority.”
“With the U.S. hemp industry estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal law to allow for colleges and universities to grow hemp for research would mean that we will finally begin to regain the knowledge that unfortunately has been lost over the past fifty years,” says Vote Hemp President, Eric Steenstra. “The American Farm Bureau Federation announced their opposition to the controlled substance classification of hemp earlier this month, and now passage of this amendment means America can get on track to once again become the predominant producer and manufacturer of hemp — one of the most versatile and ecological industrial crops on the planet.”
The hemp amendment was one of the few provisions in the farm bill that lacked approval from both houses of Congress – yet eventually making it into the final approved version of the farm bill, a true testament to the bill’s bipartisan support.
“Senator Wyden introduced an amendment to the Senate farm bill that was more expansive than the House version, but the leadership limited the votes severely and our provision never got a vote,” Steenstra explained. “That, combined with the fact that Senator Leahy had basically cleared it through Judiciary, allowed it to go forward. But ultimately, Senator McConnell and other conferees spoke up for it.”
Surprisingly, even right-wing lapdogs like Mitch McConnell and fellow Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, have demonstrated strong support for legalize hemp production, supporting legislation at both the state and federal levels.
“This is an important victory for Kentucky’s farmers, and I was pleased to be able to secure this language on behalf of our state,” McConnell said in a statement issued Tuesday. “By giving states the go-ahead to cultivate hemp for pilot programs, we are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers. By exploring innovative ways to use hemp to benefit a variety of Kentucky industries, while avoiding negative impact to Kentucky law enforcement’s efforts at marijuana interdiction, the pilot programs authorized by this legislation could help boost our state’s economy.”