In a surprisingly progressive move, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives recently voted to approve an amendment that would allow America to move forward on the development of sensible policies for the cultivation and sale of hemp.
Thanks to the recent vote, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (officially known as H.R. 1947) now includes a clause (pdf) that allows colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes.
You might be surprised to learn that even though hemp contains virtually no THC (the psychoactive compound that makes its cousin, marijuana, so desirable) the Drug Enforcement Agency acknowledges no difference between the two. America is one of the only countries in the world to hold this position on hemp.
Because of this ignorant legal roadblock, the United States is forced to import millions of dollars in hemp products from China and Canada instead of creating those jobs and products here at home. For those who have fought long and hard for the right to utilize this fast-growing resource, the amendment shows significant progress toward more rational hemp policies.
Although 35 states have introduced hemp-friendly legislation, with 19 having passed laws allowing farmers to grow it, farmers who do so still risk arrest and federal prosecution.
Introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amended version of the bill would allow the U.S. hemp industry, which some estimate to exceed $350 million in annual sales, to return from exile and begin providing jobs and much-needed eco-friendly materials to the American economy.
In a letter to their colleagues, the congressmen wrote:
Hemp is not marijuana. Our amendment defines industrial hemp as a product containing less than 0.3 percent THC. At this concentration, and even at much higher concentrations, it is physically impossible to use hemp as a drug.
From Colorado to Kentucky to Oregon, voters across the country have made it clear that they believe industrial hemp should be regulated as agricultural commodity, not a drug. At the very least, we should allow our universities — the greatest in the world — to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural resource.
Just how important? Well, there are over 25,000 things you can make from hemp, and most of them are way more practical than necklaces and hippie sandals. Here are just a few: Paper and cardboard, clothing and fabrics, plastic and building materials, automobile fuel, and food.
Gee, lots of those are things we have to import or make out of fossil fuels that are destroying our planet, and all along, there was this benign plant that could make it all possible in a cleaner, more localized way!
Tired of the unfair laws that turn hemp farmers into criminals? Time to make a call.
“We don’t yet know when it will be voted on by the full House, but it could be as early as today,” writes Riffle in a letter to supporters. “There’s no time for emails; please call your representative today, and tell him or her to support this modest, sensible step forward on hemp. When you’re done, please ask your friends to do the same.”