Hemp pilot bill passes Senate

Ali Meyer: On June 29, the Senate passed Sen. Mark Leno’s bill SB 676, which authorizes a pilot project for growing industrial hemp, a marjuana-related plant that provides useful products without the psychoactive properties of marijuana.  The bill defines “industrial hemp” as an agricultural field crop limited to the non-psychoactive varieties of the plant Cannibis saliva L, having no more than 3/10 of 1 percent THC. THC is the ingredient that gives marijuana its sought-after qualities.

The bill requires that industrial hemp growers obtain a lab test indicating THC levels prior to harvesting, and the destruction of hemp if lab tests show THC content over 1 percent.  The pilot program will take place in Imperial, Kings, Kern, San Joaquin and Yolo counties.

As advocates point out, the benefits of industrial hemp are immense.  Hemp seeds produce nutritious oil, high in fatty acids and antioxidants.  Hemp fibers are strong and durable, useful for currency, insulation, concrete and building products.  Hemp is also known to be useful in beauty products, often found in shampoo, soaps, and even tanning lotions. Environmental activists love hemp’s absorbent properties as it is useful for oil spills, soil erosion and planting material.  “Historically industrial hemp has benefited planet Earth for over a millennia; the sails of the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria were made of industrial hemp, drafts of the Constitution were written on hemp paper, and hemp was actually legal tender in the U.S. up until 1818,” says Leno.

Tree huggers aren’t the only ones who benefit.  “SB 676 is about jobs.  By passing SB 676 entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will feel free and comfortable lending money to build an industry that the public is clamoring for,” says Steve Levine, a representative from Hemp Industries.  Growing industrial hemp is an “income producing opportunity for California farmers as a means to create new off farm processing jobs and for its many beneficial uses to consumers. Canadian farmers make 2.5 to 3 million dollars a year legally growing industrial hemp.  It is legally grown in 30 nations, and sales of hemp based on food and body care products are approaching 300 million annually in the US,” says Bob McFarland, president of the California Grange.

So why is industrial hemp illegal?  “The marijuana act of 1937 intended to thwart the distribution and use of recreational cannabis but it effectively prohibited all varieties of cannabis including industrial hemp.  Opponents of legalization mistakenly fear it will be used as a recreational drug,” explains Bob McFarland.  His response to this claim?  “It simply is not possible to get high smoking industrial hemp.”

The pilot project is intended for a five county, eight year program.  The Attorney General and the Hemp Industry are required to report in regards to concerns and economic benefits as the program progresses.

JUNE 30, 2011

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