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The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017

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On Friday, July 28, Congressmen James Comer (R-KY), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced legislation to remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which would effectively legalize the cultivation of hemp in the United States. The bill has a total of 15 co-sponsors.

H.R. 3530, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017, would “amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana.” The bill also creates a new category establishing hemp research as a conventional crop at university and state departments of agriculture and allows for increased commercialization of industrial hemp.

Comer explained: “By removing industrial hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act will finally allow for responsible, commercial production of industrial hemp without fear of violating federal law.”

Goodlatte believes that many Virginia farmers are interested in producing hemp, but that “outdated, though well-intentioned, federal restrictions” are in the way.

“Industrial hemp isn’t a new crop to the United States, but most Americans aren’t aware of the wide range of legitimate uses for it,” he noted. “Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Rockingham County farm of a participant in Virginia’s industrial hemp research program to see firsthand how this crop is grown and harvested.”

“The federal ban on hemp has been a waste of taxpayer dollars that ignores science, suppresses innovation and subverts the will of states that have chosen to incorporate this versatile crop into their economies” said Polis.

A bipartisan companion bills is also being submitted in the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Rep. Massie, along with his co-sponsors, has been an advocate for hemp for several years. Massie showed particular concern over an incident in 2014, when the DEA obstructed a hemp seed delivery for a Kentucky hemp research project.

“Their seeds were confiscated by an overzealous DEA, that is turning a blind eye to marijuana in Colorado and Washington State, but the DEA saw fit to come to Kentucky and harass our state department of agriculture that had non-psychoactive hemp seeds,” Massie said.

One of the most effective lobbyists for pushing hemp policy on Capitol Hill is Vote Hemp.

While pleased with the introduction of the bill, Vote Hemp is concerned about several new provisions recently added to the proposal, which they will work to remove or amend. These include provisions to allow the DEA to conduct administrative inspections of the hemp industry, rather than leave this to the states, restrictions on the processing of hemp extracts that will harm the emerging cannabidiol (CBD) industry, language that effectively enables the Food and Drug Administration to persist in treating CBD as a controlled substance (a position currently being challenged in federal court).

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Vote Hemp was pleased, that “several changes we advocated for were included in the new bill: inclusion of Native American tribes and a provision which will allow for research on hemp with THC levels of up to 0.6% THC.”

Supporters of hemp legalization can help secure passage of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 by contacting their congressional representatives. Just visit the Web Site for the House of Representatives, enter your zip code and then follow the instructions on your representative’s webpage for contacting them. Try it now, even if you are not ready to send a message of support, just to see how easy it is.

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Jon Gettman is the Cannabis Policy Director for High Times. Jon has a Ph.D. in public policy, teaching undergraduate criminal justice and graduate level management courses. A long-time contributor to High Times, his research and analytical work has been used by NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, American’s for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Jon’s research contributions to the topic of marijuana law reform have included findings on the economic value of domestic marijuana cultivation, attempts to have marijuana rescheduled under federal law and racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Serving as NORML’s National Director in the late 1980s, he was instrumental in creating NORML’s activist program.

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