WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced H.R. 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, with a total of twenty-eight original co-sponsors. Later this month, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are expected to introduce a Senate companion bill to H.R. 525. If passed, the bills would remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. The language of the bills mirror each other. The full text of the bills, their current status and a list of co-sponsors may be found at: https://www.votehemp.com/legislation
“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” says Rep. Massie. “My wife and I are raising our children on the tobacco and cattle farm where my wife grew up. Tobacco is no longer a viable crop for many of us in Kentucky, and we understand how hard it is for a family farm to turn a profit these days. Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.”
Rep. Massie is picking up where former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who introduced the previous four versions of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in Congress, left off. Rep. Massie’s home state of Kentucky is currently embroiled in a heated debate, as momentum grows to bring back hemp farming and processing in the state. Efforts by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who recently reinstated the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, have the support of Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
H.R. 525 is the fifth time a bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of industrial hemp farming since the federal government outlawed it in this country forty-three years ago. The bill was first introduced in 2005 by Rep. Ron Paul in the House, and the current version already has the bipartisan support of eight Republicans and twenty-one Democrats. If passed, H.R. 525 would remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp by defining it as distinct from “marihuana” and allowing its farming and processing in accordance with 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 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”).
“We are very pleased to see action being taken in both the House and Senate, as well as in many state houses, on the issue of allowing American farmers to once again grow this versatile, sustainable and profitable crop. American farmers are being denied the right to grow a crop that our Founding Fathers considered essential to our nation’s well-being,” says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading single-issue advocacy group dedicated to re-commercializing industrial hemp. “It is imperative now that other Representatives and Senators co-sponsor these bills, and that President Obama and Attorney General Holder also issue waivers to allow American farmers to grow hemp under state law where legal. With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $452 million in annual retail sales, and growing, a change in federal policy to once again allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits,” adds Steenstra.
U.S. 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 Living Harvest, Manitoba Harvest, Nature’s Path, Navitas, Nutiva and Sequel Naturals. All of these companies have no choice but to make their products from hemp grown in Canada or other countries. Sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil are also used as raw materials by major companies, such as Ford Motors, Patagonia and The Body Shop, to make a wide variety of products.
H.R. 525 was introduced by chief sponsors Rep. Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Schrader (D-OR), with twenty-eight original co-sponsors: Rep. Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Polis (D-CO), Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Hanna (R-NY), Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Farr (D-CA), Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Amash (R-MI), Rep. DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Ellison (D-MN), Del. Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Clay (D-MO), Rep. Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Moran (D-VA), Rep. Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Yarmuth (D-KY), Rep. Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Benishek (R-MI), Rep. McClintock (R-CA), Rep. Campbell (R-CA), Rep. Lee (D-CA), Rep. Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Miller (D-CA), Rep. McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Yoho (R-FL).
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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.