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California Hemp Farming Bill SB 566 Garners Strong Support from Businesses, Leading Advocacy Groups and Sheriffs’ Association

California Businesses and Farmers Await Passage of New Bill that would Allow Commercial Farming of Industrial Hemp

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today at 9:30 a.m. the California Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on SB 566, a bill that would legalize hemp farming in the state of California. Members of the hemp advocacy organizations Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association, Patrick Goggin, California Legal Counsel for Vote Hemp and David Bronner, President of leading hemp product manufacturer Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, will testify in support of SB 566. The bill clarifies that industrial hemp is separate and distinct from forms of Cannabis used to produce marijuana and, if passed, will allow commercial farming of industrial hemp. SB 566 would only allow farmers to grow industrial hemp under state law once the federal policy that bans hemp farming is changed. SB 566 was introduced on Friday, February 22 by state Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The bill is co-sponsored by Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor, a Republican representing the 74th District.

“The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act will create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers across California,” said Senator Leno. “Hundreds of consumer products containing hemp are made in the Golden State, but the manufacturers of these goods are forced to import hemp seed, oil, and fiber from growers in Canada, Europe, and China. This new bill is carefully crafted to eliminate conflicts with federal law and has the support of the California State Sheriffs’ Association.”

“On behalf of the California State Sheriffs Association (CSSA) we are pleased to support SB 566, which would revise the definition of “marijuana” so the term would exclude industrial hemp, and enact specified procedures and requirements relating to growing industrial hemp and those who cultivate industrial hemp,” stated a recent letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee from the California State Sheriffs’ Association announcing its endorsement of SB 566.

“The prospects for SB 566 are very good. Unlike past industrial hemp bills, this session’s version does not go into effect until it is authorized by federal law,” says Patrick Goggin, California Legal Counsel for Vote Hemp. “We feel confident that California will finally have an industrial hemp law later this year ensuring that California farmers are ready and able to cultivate hemp upon federal approval.”

Hemp has absolutely no value as a recreational drug. A variety of products made from industrial hemp including healthy food and natural body care products as well as eco-friendly clothing are made in California, however the hemp to make these products must be imported until federal law prohibiting the growth of hemp is changed.

“Dr. Bronner’s currently purchases twenty tons of hemp oil each year from Canada. We look forward to the day that we can meet our supply needs from hemp produced right here in our home state,” says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps of Escondido.

Data from market research conducted by SPINS demonstrates that retail sales of hemp food and body care products in the United States continue to set records in 2012, reaching $156 million. Sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps and lotions have occurred against the backdrop of increasing grassroots pressure to allow hemp to be grown domestically once again for U.S. processors and manufacturers. The HIA has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and it estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2012 to be at least $500 million.

Two industrial hemp bills have been introduced in the 113th Congress so far. H.R. 525, the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” was introduced in the U.S. House on February 6, 2013. The companion bill, S. 359, was introduced in the U.S. Senate on February 14, 2013. The bills define industrial hemp, exclude it from the definition of “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act, and gives states the exclusive authority to regulate the growing and processing of industrial hemp under state law.

To date, thirty-one states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and nineteen have passed such legislation. Eight states (Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. Three states (Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland) have passed bills creating commissions or authorizing hemp research. Nine states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia) have passed hemp resolutions. Six states (Arkansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont) have passed hemp study bills. However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in those states still risk raids by federal agents, prison time, and property and civil asset forfeiture if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis(i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive drug varieties (i.e., “marihuana”).

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Vote Hemp is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow hemp commercially.