It has been a long and some say tortuous process to get the federal government to legalize industrial hemp, but the scales have finally tipped. The Pennsylvania Senate just unanimously passed an industrial hemp bill that signifies a tipping point for the country.
A major industrial hemp bill passed in Hawaii as well, and with a medical marijuana bill pending in Pennsylvania also, it looks like that state, along with others who are paving the way with similar hemp-friendly legislation, can soon expect a windfall for farmers willing to grow the same crop that helped to build this country.
Members of the Senate voted 49-0 to approve Senate Bill 50, the Industrial Hemp Act. Over 28 states now have similar laws.
Currently hemp products are only legal in the US if they are imported from one of 30 countries where growing the plant is legal. These are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
Cultivation of hemp has been practiced for over 10,000 years. Industrial hemp was the primary fiber used to manufacture rope, canvas, paper, and clothing until alternative textiles for these purposes were discovered. Now hemp oils, hemp plastics, hemp building materials and many hemp fiber products are available. In the 1760’s Washington considered whether hemp would be a more lucrative cash crop than tobacco but determined wheat would be a better alternative. It is said that George Washington grew hemp for its myriad uses.
More recently, following a change in an omnibus bill in the federal Farm Act, a handful of states were granted permission to grow industrial hemp for research purposes, but many states with research or industrial hemp growing programs must still request a change in federal laws or a waiver from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency prior to their implementation.
Section 7606 of the Farm Bill, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, defines industrial hemp as distinct, and authorizes institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to conduct research and pilot programs. Hemp has not been grown in the United States since 1957, but there is enormous market demand for such a useful product. The more states’ that legalize its growth, the more prosperous our country might be.
You can see a run-down of specific state legislation regarding hemp cultivation, here.
Here you can see Pennsylvania’s unanimously passed Bill 50.