SACRAMENTO, CA — Introduced by Senator Mark Leno earlier this year, SB 676, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act is moving quickly through the California Legislature. SB 676 would create an 8-year pilot program to allow industrial hemp farming in five California counties, Kern, Kings, Imperial, San Joaquin and Yolo. Passing through the Assembly Committee on Agriculture last week with a 6-0 vote, leading hemp advocacy organization, Vote Hemp, expects the bill to reach the Governor’s desk this September.
The bill has the endorsement of the California State Grange, the UCFW, the Imperial County Farm Bureau, California Certified Organic Growers and other leading farming organizations. Dan Rush, UFCW 5 Statewide Special Operations Director, stated, “UFCW enthusiastically supports SB 676 because we see it as a jobs and revenue generator at a time when they are sorely needed in California.”
The bill has passed out of the Senate and Assembly committees with votes as follows:
In the Senate: Agriculture – 5 – 1 (4/05); Public Safety – 5 – 2 (4/26); Appropriations – 6 – 3 (5/16); Floor – 22 – 14 (5/31)
In the Assembly: Public Safety – 5 – 2 (6/21); Agriculture – 6 – 0 (6/29)
SB 676 will go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Floor in August. After going back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, it will finally head to the Governor’s desk.
“Support for hemp farming and manufacturing in California has been very strong. It is passing through committee after committee with a positive reception. We expect this bill to be on its way to the Governor’s desk by early September. Governor Brown will then have 30 days to act on the bill,” explains Patrick Goggin, California Legal Counsel for Vote Hemp.
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 in five counties (Imperial. Kern, Kings, San Joaquin and Yolo) under an 8-year pilot program. Industrial hemp was grown in California up until shortly after World War II. Industrial hemp is the non-psychoactive, low-THC, oilseed and fiber varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp has absolutely no value as a recreational drug.
SB 676 was introduced on February 18 by state Senator Mark Leno. Senator Leno believes that hemp farming will help revitalize California’s economy, “The time is long over due for California farmers to be allowed to grow this sustainable and profitable crop once again. The passage of SB 676 will create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers through out the state.”
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. “There are over 50 member businesses of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) that make or sell hemp products in the state of California alone that could benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber and oil,” says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA. “Because of outdated federal and state policies these businesses are forced to import millions of dollars of industrial hemp from Canada, China and Europe.”
Companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a California company that manufactures the number-one-selling natural soap in the U.S. as well as best-selling hemp food manufacturers, such as French Meadow Bakery, Living Harvest, Manitoba Harvest, Nature’s Path, Nutiva and Sequel Naturals who make their products from hemp grown in Canada. Major companies such as Ford Motors, Patagonia and The Body Shop also use sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil.
“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.
On May 11th, Rep. Ron Paul introduced The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011 (H.R. 1831) in Congress along with 22 co-sponsors including 6 Representatives from California (Farr, McClintock, Miller, Rohrabacher, Stark, Woolsey). If passed, H.R. 1831 will remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp.
To date, 17 states have passed pro-hemp laws or resolutions, including the California Assembly in 1999 when it passed a resolution declaring that “the Legislature should consider action to revise the legal status of industrial hemp to allow for its growth in California as an agricultural and industrial crop.”
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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.