Two Democrats from Oregon have teamed up with two Republicans from Kentucky to introduce a bill that would legalize industrial hemp cultivation and production nationwide.
WASHINGTON, DC — A bill to legalize industrial hemp cultivation and production nationwide has been filed in the United States Senate with bi-partisan support, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The bill, Senate Bill 134, was filed last week by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill is co-sponsored by Senators McConnell, Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), and has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Titled the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015,” the bill would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. The bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The four Senators sponsoring the bill represent states — Oregon and Kentucky — that are among the twenty states that have already defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to production.
However, under current federal law, farmers in states that allow industrial hemp research and pilot programs must still seek a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration or risk raids and seizures by federal agents.
“The U.S. ban on hemp farming is an outrageous restriction on free enterprise and does nothing but hurt economic growth and job creation,” Sen. Wyden said. “Our bipartisan, common-sense bill is pro-environment, pro-business, and pro-farmer. Congress must act to empower farmers and boost economic activity across the country. As I’ve always said, if you can buy it in Oregon, you should be able to grow it in Oregon.”
Hemp products — including food and clothing — are legal to sell in the United States, but the hemp itself must be grown in other countries and imported into the United States.
“Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agriculture industry,” added Sen. Paul.
The proposal is similar to a bill filed by Sen. Wyden in 2013, also co-sponsored by Sens. Merkley, Paul and McConnell, which failed to gain traction at the time. An amendment to include parts of the bill in a federal spending bill that year also failed.
This time around, however, the bill has a better chance of gaining traction, as the nation’s attitudes towards cannabis — and industrial hemp in particular — continue to relax. Last year, Congress relaxed some of the restrictions surrounding hemp cultivation in the United States, approving a provision in the omnibus federal farm bill that allows for research on industrial hemp by universities and state agriculture departments in states that have approved such programs.
Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing. The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to the Congressional Resource Service.
Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
The world’s leader in hemp production is China.