Sales of hemp products imported into the U.S. were $500 million in 2012, and advocates say allowing U.S. farmers to tap this market will bolster the economy and create jobs.
Vote Hemp, an organization dedicated to legalizing and revitalizing the industrial hemp industry in the U.S., announced on Tuesday that an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes had been included in the Farm Bill.
Originally introduced by Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., the amendment will allow colleges and universities, as well as state agriculture departments to grow hemp for academic or agricultural research purposes — but only in those states that have already legalized industrial hemp farming.
Those states include California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. This list could expand soon, since so far in the 2014 legislative session, industrial hemp legislation has been introduced in 11 states.
“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,” said Eric Steenstra, Vote Hemp President.
“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.”
Polis applauded the amendment, saying, “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.”
“This is an important victory for farmers, manufacturers, and consumers in Kentucky and across the country,” Massie said. “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.
“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.”
When asked if the Farm Bill will pass both the House and Senate with the hemp amendment, Steenstra said it appears that way, and added that Vote Hemp is still encouraging the federal government to pass legislation that would allow commercial cultivation of hemp.
“Industrial hemp is non drug low-THC oilseed and fiber varieties of cannabis,” he said. “Products made from hemp include nutritious foods, body care, textiles, auto parts and home construction materials.
“Sales of hemp products in the U.S. for 2012 were $500 million and continue to grow each year,” Steenstra said. “All of these products were made from imported hemp. American farmers should be able to participate in this market and reduce costs and time to market for American manufacturers using hemp in their products.”
Only 11 states have passed legislation allowing for research of industrial hemp, but 32 have introduced pro-hemp legislation; 20 have passed pro-hemp legislation.
In addition to the Farm Bill amendment, there are two other industrial hemp bills being considered in Congress. One would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act, while the other would leave it up to the states to decide whether they want to regulate the growing and processing of the crop.