By Steve Elliott
An amendment allowing colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp in states where it is already legal, without fear of federal interference, passed the U.S. House of Representatives June 20 by a vote of 225-200.
U.S. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the amendment to H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, the FARRM Bill.
“Industrial hemp is an important agricultural commodity, not a drug,” said Rep. Polis. “My bipartisan, common-sense amendment, which I’ve introduced with Representatives Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal.
“Many states, including Colorado, have demonstrated that they are fully capable of regulating industrial hemp,” Rep. Polis added. “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp — but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here.
“The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference,” Rep. Polis continued. “Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities — the greatest in the world — to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”
Rep. Massie added: “Industrial hemp is used for hundreds of products including paper, clothing, rope, and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels more efficiently than corn or switch grass. It’s our goal that the research this amendment enables would further broadcast the economic benefits of the sustainable and job-creating crop. I look forward to working with Rep. Polis and Rep. Blumenauer on this issue.”
Rep. Blumenauer said: “Because of outdated federal drug laws, our farmers can’t grow industrial hemp and take advantage of a more than $300 million market. We rely solely on imports to sustain consumer demand. It makes no sense.
“Our fear of industrial hemp is misplaced — it is not a drug,” Blumenauer added. “By allowing colleges and universities to cultivate hemp for research, Congress sends a signal that we are ready to examine hemp in a different and more appropriate context.”
Nineteen states have passed pro-industrial hemp legislation. Nine states — Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — have removed barriers to its production.
Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, said: “Vote Hemp applauds this new bi-partisan amendment, and we are mobilizing all the support we can. This brilliant initiative would allow colleges and universities the opportunity to grow and cultivate hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes.
“It would only apply to states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal in order for those states to showcase just how much industrial hemp could benefit the environment and economy in those regions,” Steenstra said.
Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said: “Federal law has denied American farmers the opportunity to cultivate industrial hemp and reap the economic rewards from this versatile crop for far too long. Congress should lift the prohibition on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp as soon as possible. Allowing academic research is an important first step towards returning industrial hemp cultivation to American farms.”
In addition to the co-sponsors of this amendment, ranking member Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) also spoke in support of this amendment.
From the June 26-July 2, 2013, issue