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77th General Assembly: HF 402 & SF 340

78th General Assembly: HF 320 & SF 2413

79th General Assembly: SF 61 & HF 202

80th General Assembly: SF 191

81st General Assembly

77th General Assembly: HF 402 & SF 340

In 1997, the 60th anniversary of the first federal law affecting hemp farming, the Marijuana Tax Act, Representatives Minnette Doderer (D-Iowa City), Effie Lee Boggess (R-Villisca), Cecil Dolecheck (R-Mount Ayr) and Cecelia Burnett (D-Ames) introduced HF 402, a bill to authorize Iowa State University to research industrial hemp farming.

Speaking with the Iowa State Daily ("Hemp fires set to burn at conference here this weekend"), Burnett said the bill had bipartisan support because research could provide an alternative crop for the poorer soils of southern Iowa. "This is not marijuana," Burnett told the paper. "Hemp has a long history of use in America. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper."

The Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier ("Hemp hype or cash crop") quoted Doderer as saying "It's the most versatile crop I know of. It's a great cash crop."

The Des Moines Register ("House panel approves hemp research") quoted Rep. Russell Teig (R-Jewell) as saying, "If they [researchers at Iowa State University] want to do some research for us, we ought to give them our whole support."

The Des Moines Register ("Hemp crop proposals must shed their image problem") quoted Denny Presnall, a lobbyist for the Iowa Farm Bureau, saying "We would be foolish to at least not look at something like it [industrial hemp farming]." The bill was supported by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, which had adopted a pro-hemp resolution at their most recent state convention.

When the House Agriculture Committee approved HF 402 by an 18-3 vote, the Des Moines Register ("A promising new crop") applauded, calling hemp "a proven crop with a proven market and a proven propensity to thrive in the rich Iowa soil."

A companion bill, SF 340, introduced by the Senate Agriculture Committee, explained that "Industrial hemp historically has contributed to the economic welfare of this country, and is a renewable resource manufactured for textiles, pulp, paper, oil and other products. The purpose of this act is to promote the economy of this state by providing for research necessary to develop industrial hemp as a viable crop." It further stated that "research shall ... be determined by experimental trials when appropriate."

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted (see Senate Journal 511) to recommend passage of SF 340 with a final vote of 13 to 1.

78th General Assembly: HF 320 & SF 2413

In 1999, Representative Burnett introduced HF 320, another bill for research on the production and marketing of industrial hemp.

In 2000, Senator Lyle Zieman, along with 11 other senators, introduced a companion bill, SF 2260, that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee (as SF 2413).

79th General Assembly: SF 61 & HF 202

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed another hemp bill, SF 61, in 2001. The final vote was 12 to 1. A companion bill, HF 202, was introduced in the House by 10 cosponsors. When SF 61 passed the committee, the Iowa State Daily said the decision was "full of wisdom and could help Iowa farmers produce a crop the rest of the world has been happy to utilize fully for decades."

The Iowa State Daily also ran a news article on the vote ("Iowa Legislators consider legalizing hemp") outlining the case for hemp according to Sen. Mark Zieman (R-Postville), Lyle Zieman’s son who won his father’s senate seat. He was quoted as saying "It [industrial hemp] can be used for building materials, twine, textiles and fiber."

"The benefit that I'm looking at in it [hemp] is an alternative cash crop that we, as Iowa farmers, may be able to develop in the future," said Zieman, one of the bill's sponsors. "We just want to take a look at it and see if it's something we would want to pursue."

Zieman, a full-time farmer in Northeast Iowa, said hemp is used in more than 25,000 products being shipped to the United States from other countries, such as Canada. He said hemp is used in the cosmetic and automobile industries, and may be developed as a fuel source. "That might be the big unknown, the one we need to take a look at," he said.

* * *

Zieman said comparing hemp and marijuana is like "comparing sweet corn and popcorn."

The level of hallucinogenic substance, THC, is between 7 percent and 20 percent in marijuana, Zieman said. Hemp, he said, has less than 1 percent THC.

"There's really no risk, although there is a perceived risk," he said. "As far as a hallucination, it just isn't going to happen. But, we're having some problems convincing people."

* * *

Zieman said growing hemp is legal in several surrounding states that have passed bills to provide funding for research on the plant. Hawaii has had a federal license to maintain test plots for two years, he said.

"I think, if we did this now, we would be on the cutting edge," Zieman said.

He also said the legalization would be state-regulated, and permits would be limited for the first few years.

"This isn't going to be a broad spectrum right off the bat," he said. "We're not even to the crawling stage yet ... but I think we need to give ourselves the opportunity to look at it."

Zieman inherited the hemp project from his father, former Sen. Lyle Zieman (R-Postville) who worked on legalizing the plant during his four-year tenure in the senate. If the bill is approved by the state legislature and a federal permit is obtained, it would be a first for the Midwest, he said.

80th General Assembly: SF 191

Senator Zieman introduced another hemp bill in 2003, SF 191 (Iowa Hemp Bill), an act providing for the production and marketing of industrial hemp. This bill also "survived the funnel," passing the Senate Agriculture Committee. The vote was 14 ayes, 1 absent or not voting.

81st General Assembly

So far, no industrial hemp bill has been introduced in the 81st General Assembly. Still, 24 senators and representatives who have sponsored or voted for industrial hemp legislation in the past remain in the General Assembly (unless they've moved into the governor's mansion).


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