Friday, April 3, 2009

New Bill Allowing Industrial Hemp Farming Expected to Be Introduced this Week
For the third time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States over 50 years ago, a federal bill will be introduced that will remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. The chief sponsors, Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) have circulated a dear colleague letter seeking support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. The bill will be identical to HR 1009 which was introduced in the 110th Congress.

"With so much discussion lately in the media about drug policy, it is surprising the tragedy of American hemp farming hasn't come up as a 'no-brainer' for reform," says Vote Hemp President, Eric Steenstra. "Hemp is a versatile, environmentally friendly crop that has not been grown for over 50 years because of a politicized interpretation of the nation's drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). President Obama should direct the DEA to avoid confusing industrial hemp and it's genetically distinct cousin marijuana. While the new bill in Congress is a welcome step, the hemp industry is hopeful the new leadership in the White House will prioritize the crop benefits to farmers. There are jobs that would be created over night as there are numerous American companies that have no choice but to import hemp materials valued at $300 million in sales per year," says Steenstra.

U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a California company who manufactures the number-one-selling natural soap, and FlexForm Technologies, an Indiana company whose natural fiber materials are used in over 2 million cars. Hemp food manufacturers such as French Meadow Bakery, Hempzels, Living Harvest, Nature's Path and Nutiva now make their products from Canadian hemp. Although hemp grows wild across the U.S., a vestige of centuries of hemp farming, the hemp for these products must be imported. Hemp clothing is made around the world by well-known brands such as Patagonia, Bono's Edun and Giorgio Armani.

There is strong support among key national organizations for a change in the federal government's position on hemp. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) "supports revisions to the federal rules and regulations authorizing commercial production of industrial hemp." The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has also passed a pro-hemp resolution.

Numerous individual states have expressed interest in industrial hemp as well. Sixteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation; eight (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. North Dakota has issued state licenses, two years running. The new bill will removes federal barriers and allow laws in these states regulating the growing and processing of industrial hemp to take effect.

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