Full list: Hemp News

Culture: Maine Officially Legalizes Commercial Hemp Cultivation

By Zara Zhi
June 25, 2015
Full Article

A new decree that allows for the cultivation of hemp in Maine is currently in effect after a veto by Gov. Paul LePage was superseded, according to Governing.com.

“I am absolutely thrilled that this is now law,” stated Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea. The veto was overridden by a vote of 135 in favor, 6 opposed and 10 absences on May 12 in the Maine House. The senate also chose to reverse the veto on June 16, by a vote of 28 in favor and 6 opposed.

“This was overwhelmingly overridden,” she added on Monday of the veto. “It got big support in both the House and the Senate. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle really showed their support for it.”

On Monday, Sanderson said the emergency statute would go into effect immediately so that cultivators can plant their seeds as early as possible.

The rule permits planters to buy hemp seeds from any qualified seed source, rather than only certified Canadian producers, as initially presented in the first version of the bill.

When Sanderson first introduced the bill, community members, farmers, organic growers, and agricultural researchers rallied behind the initiative. The measure will open new prospects to farmers and deliver local sourcing for many hemp-made products, according to the representatives.

Hemp fibers have many diverse uses including textile making, paper, insulation, building materials and composites for auto bodies. But hemp is also tainted in controversy because it comes from the same plant as cannabis, which is why it’s still classified as a drug under federal law.

On Feb. 10, during a public hearing on the bill in the State House, Jon Olson of the Maine Farm Bureau testified that the farming of industrial hemp was deliberated at an Aroostook County Farm Bureau meeting and said that farmers believed it would be “value added” crop to add to their rotation.

Ann Gibbs, acting Director of the Animal and Plant Health Division for the Maine Department of Agriculture, was neutral on the bill and stated that hemp is classified as a “drug” under the Federal Controlled Substance Act, and would be difficult to import for commercial use due to the restrictions. The DEA controls any hemp that is grown legally and has only given permission to the state Department of Agriculture or to universities for research so far.

The bill calls for licensing fees that should be “reasonable and necessary to cover the costs of the department” and would be set at the preference of the Maine Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont have already legalized industrial hemp for cultivation and research.


VT Digger: Slow growing: Hemp cultivation stymied by federal rules

CB Hall Apr. 5 2015
Full Article

A number of Vermont farmers would like to grow hemp, which has uses ranging from cosmetics to biofuel. There’s a catch, however: The federal government could arrest them for growing the plant because it is a variety of the marijuana plant.

The Vermont Legislature endorsed the production of industrial hemp in 2013 when it passed Act 84. The law cites the low-THC strain of Cannabis sativa, or hemp, as useful in producing “high-strength fiber, textiles, clothing, biofuel, paper products, protein-rich foods, biodegradable plastics, resins, nontoxic medicinal and cosmetic products, construction materials, rope, value-added crafts, livestock feed and bedding, stream buffering, erosion control, water and soil purification and weed control.”

It’s a question of opportunity for farmers like Ken Manfredi and his partner, Robin Alberti, who grew a quarter-acre of hemp last year on leased land in the town of Chittenden.

“Hemp has great potential for economic revival here in Vermont,” Manfredi said.

And it’s hardly a new idea – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were farmers, grew hemp because of its utility.

Marijuana and industrial hemp are two varieties of the same species, Cannabis sativa. By definition, however, industrial hemp contains no more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant, and cannot produce a high unless consumed in large quantities.

Act 84 legalized the growing of industrial hemp in Vermont, with the caveat that producers register with the state and be notified that cultivation of the plant remains a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In 2014, however, President Barack Obama signed a farm bill under which higher education institutions and state agriculture agencies could grow industrial cannabis “for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program” notwithstanding the act, which treats all cultivars of the species as illegal.

The 357 pages of the farm bill made no mention of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which enforces the Controlled Substances Act. Federal narcotics officials have, however, long required that anyone importing cannabis seeds obtain a permit; and importing seeds from places where hemp cultivation is fully legal is the recourse for research institutions, since there are no U.S. suppliers of certified hemp seed – that is, seed certified to have the characteristics sought, such as high oil or fiber content.

University of Vermont field crops expert Heather Darby said that some of her faculty colleagues have taken an interest in working with hemp.

“Initial research, if we receive proper permits, will focus on basic production and agronomy,” she said in an email. She noted that companies as diverse as cosmetics manufacturer Nivea and automaker Ford “have been in contact with us here in Vermont, looking for opportunities.” The latter, she elaborated, “would use the fiber in a number of interior parts of the vehicle — dashboards would be one.”

But having to start with seeds that the DEA treats as marijuana puts the university in what she termed “an interesting situation. Do you move forward with research and put yourself at risk of prosecution?”

“The DOJ and the DEA aren’t part of the farm bill – they don’t follow the same rules,” she said, referring to the Department of Justice, which includes the DEA. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Government Catch-22

The Controlled Substances Act “creates a closed system,” DEA spokesperson Barbara Carreno said. To track materials in that system, it requires registration of the substances’ handlers.

In theory at least, the act tasks the DEA “with tracking the flow of all controlled substances in the United States. Collectively, that would include all the seeds,” Carreno elaborated in a follow-up email. Monitoring every cannabis seed once it enters the country may seem as hopeless a task as following a BB pellet as it rolls around in a boxcar, and as legalization of cannabis gains momentum across the country, but the DEA is not abandoning what it perceives as its duty.

In the tug of war over cannabis, the agency has yielded some ground. In May 2014, three months after the farm bill’s enactment, the state of Kentucky imported 130 kilograms of hemp seeds from Italy, only to have the DEA seize the shipment on its way to several Kentucky universities and farmers contracted for a pilot growing program overseen by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Two lawsuits ensued. The DEA backed off and allowed the program to proceed.

“At this point, we don’t see importation as being a limiting factor on the program, because we have a process that is satisfactory to both DEA and the [Kentucky] Department of Agriculture,” said the department’s industrial hemp program coordinator, Adam Watson.

Vermont’s industry

Some Vermonters are eager to test industrial hemp’s potential here. Last year, 17 parties registered to grow the crop. Tim Schmalz, who manages the registry at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, said the registrants expected to grow 190.41 acres all told, but only about an acre was actually planted. The shortfall, he said, was because of difficulties in getting seed and the tendency of would-be farmers not to realize the amount of work involved.

As of March, only five parties have registered with the state to grow the crop this year. They include Joel Bedard of Huntington, who said he hoped to get through the DEA red tape and import as much as 3,000 pounds of seed, which would yield up to 100 acres to be cultivated by farmers contracting with him as a broker. He sees hemp as a jack-of-all-trades crop and identified two Vermont breweries that might make hemp beer. The crop’s uses, he said, include remediation of polluted waterways, since very dense plantings filter runoff, preventing it from entering the water.

Hemp is also “capable of fixing heavy metals [and even] radioactive isotopes,” he said. “It was utilized at Chernobyl.”

Some cultivars’ seeds, he said, contain up to 30 percent oil, a percentage he termed “off the charts. And the hearts are more nutritious than flax seed. And it’s gluten-free.”

For processing, his crops would go to Full Sun Company in Middlebury.

Netaka White, a co-founder of Full Sun, grew a garden plot of industrial hemp using low-THC seed ordered online from Europe last year – enough to yield a pound of seeds. This year, he intends to plant that seed, which he hopes will produce 60 pounds. In 2016, a 60 pound planting could yield a two-ton seed crop, enough by his calculation to plant 260 acres in 2017. That season’s yield would be enough to begin commercial processing for feed meal as well as food oil, which UVM’s Darby characterized as “the low hanging fruit” for Vermont’s nascent hemp industry, since processing facilities such as Full Sun already exist.

Too small to bust?

White did not obtain a DEA permit to import his seed. The DEA hasn’t come after him, he said, because “I really have to believe that the DEA doesn’t have a lot of interest in pursuing small endeavors.” An August 2013 policy memorandum issued to U.S. attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, outlined eight priority areas for enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. Cultivation of industrial hemp was not one of them.

For their 2014 crop, Manfredi and Alberti, who like White have signed on to the state registry, ordered food-grade hemp seeds from abroad, since hemp as food can be imported legally, although the growing characteristics of the noncertified seed are unknown. They viewed the effort as experimental.

But, even with their quarter-acre – a thousand plants — “we still had the biggest legal plot in the Northeast,” Manfredi said.

Manfredi and Alberti are using the yield from those plants solely for seed.

She and Manfredi would like ultimately to concentrate on growing a high-oil variety for pressing. They are not growing the seed on their own land, however, and that could put the farmers hosting the crop at risk of an uninvited visit from the DEA.

“The Farm Bill does not exempt farmers in general from federal law that prohibits the growing of hemp,” the DEA’s Carreno said. Such farmers “could be at risk of DEA action. That said, in allocating its enforcement resources, DEA applies the guidance” in the Cole memo.

All of which answers the crucial question of possible busts with a definite maybe. In an interview, Schmalz expressed the uncertainty hovering over growers: “DEA reserves authority to come in and intervene if they feel someone is growing cannabis that might be more than 0.3% THC.”

Against that backdrop, Manfredi, Alberti, Bedard and White are supporting legislation in Congress that would remove barriers to the commercial production of industrial hemp by simply excluding low-THC cannabis from the federal definition of marijuana.

Sponsors include majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Senate and Peter Welch, D-Vt., in the House. In a noncommittal statement, the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he looked forward to “consideration of the bill on its merits” in the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, of which he is the ranking member. Jeff Frank, a spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said only that Sanders had sponsored similar legislation in the past.

With Kentucky — and cannabis-friendly Colorado — already making strides in hemp production, Vermont’s challenge may be to leverage its advantages before hemp’s potential finds a home in other states.

“If farmers are growing hemp for human consumption, for example, or the production of cosmetics, the Vermont label has a certain value,” Schmalz noted, alluding to the marketing factors that give “pure Vermont maple syrup” an aura that “pure Wisconsin maple syrup” hasn’t matched.

“We’re breaking new ground, and there are going to be some hiccups, but once they’re ironed out, hemp is … a good addition to the crops that Vermont farmers can grow,” Schmalz said.

“I imagine it is just a matter of time,” UVM’s Darby said, “before all this [legal wrangling] seems ridiculous and people look back and wonder how this happened.”


IVN: Federal Prohibition Prevents Billion-Dollar Industry from Helping Economy

By Katherine Bullington
4/21/15
Full Article

Farmers can yield, at most, $1,000 per acre from corn. Moonrise Extracts, an industrial hemp operation in Colorado, expects to reap tens of thousands per acre, from what started as a few dozen feral hemp plants.

Moonrise Extracts was lucky to obtain local hemp seeds to start their plants. Seed procurement and local adaptation from foreign seeds are a big hurdle for the industrial hemp market. The dozens of plants harvested in the summer of 2014 became 12,500 square feet of greenhouse production and 15-20 varieties of native seeds for development.

Moonrise Extract’s high crop value is thanks to the cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), found in the cannabis plant. CBD is used for cancer, HIV, anorexia treatments, controlling seizures, and pain relief. It works by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, nervous system, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.

Consumers can buy a month’s supply of CBD from Moonrise Extracts for about $100.

Zev Paiss, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Hemp Association, says Colorado hemp production is well suited for the extraction of CBDs for nutraceuticals, which are concentrated in the flowers of hemp plants. The soil conditions, higher elevation, abundant sunshine, and smaller amount of annual rainfall, however, may limit hemp fiber production.

Paiss said that experimentation is underway to determine the best cultivars for Colorado, but hemp in the state may be best used for seed, flower, and oil production.

Industrial hemp grown for cannabinol is different than the medical marijuana that is legal in 23 U.S. states. Both crops contain dozens of cannabinoids. The difference is that medical marijuana has high levels of THC, which produces psychoactive effects, along with various therapeutic effects.

In 2015, Moonrise Extracts will plant 293 acres of industrial hemp — mostly for CBD and food production — on organic soil. The company’s seed is considered organic because of its wild origins.

Non-organic CBD oils, Trojan says, can be contaminated with heavy metals, potentially complicating health issues. He expects their crop to bring in millions in 2015.

While medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, only 13 states allow industrial hemp production. Of those, only 3 states have planted hemp crops: Kentucky, Colorado, and Vermont.

Some, like Moonrise Extracts and Atalo Holdings, Inc., in Kentucky, have been very successful breaking into the U.S. hemp industry. However, a few key issues are holding the market back.

The most pressing issue is decoupling hemp production from federal DEA regulations.

Federal regulations prohibit seed from crossing state and national borders. Some hemp growers, like those in Vermont, are at risk of federal prosecution, even if states allow hemp production. Hemp seed has been illegal in the U.S. for decades. This, along with the prohibition of seed transportation, makes it difficult to start a crop.

One model, which is being used by farmers in Kentucky, is to import and plant seeds from other countries, with coordinated DEA permits.

Infrastructure is another barrier that will come down slowly. Few have equipment to harvest and process fiber at economies of scale, and procuring new equipment is expensive. Hemp oil is the breakout product for U.S. hemp, because harvesting and extraction can be done with available technology.

Bill Billings and Jim Bramer founded the Colorado Hemp Project and planted 2 acres of hemp in 2014. They hand harvested and processed their hemp into hemp oil products, like soaps and lotions. Billing’s daughter sells the products through her company, Nature’s Root. They also sold their hemp flowers to local beer makers.

Colorado Hemp Project currently has a cooperative of 4 farmers, but Bramer, who is 77, says he is not interested in trying another hemp crop in 2015.

“It will be a hard crop to pursue, until they come up with something,” he said.

He explained that the DEA restrictions are prohibitive, and the industry needs infrastructure for harvesting and processing hemp fibers.

Vermont grew less than an acre of hemp last year, largely because seeds cannot be transported over state lines unless they are crushed or sterilized, thus making them useless for planting. In an interview for IVN, Tim Schmalz of Vermont’s Department of Agriculture said that Vermont would like to add hemp oil to its state brand, but prospects are hard to gauge under federal prohibition.

It is clear that hemp can be a high value crop, but for many farmers, the path to profits remains a bit tangled.


WCAX: Attorney general says hemp oil OK under Vt. law

Apr 15, 2015
Full Article

MONTPELIER, Vt. – A big ruling for those who turn to hemp oil to treat medical conditions.

WCAX News has reported on the oil; it was developed in Colorado under the name Charlotte’s Web, but it is illegal under federal law.

Some say the oil can help reduce seizures and other medical conditions in children. The Vermont attorney general’s office says they have received proof from the oil’s manufacturer that it doesn’t contain enough THC to make it illegal under state law.


Manchester Journal: Hemp: Vermont’s next big thing?

By CB Hall
4/5/15
Full Article

A number of Vermont farmers would like to grow hemp, which has uses ranging from cosmetics to biofuel. There’s a small problem, however: The federal government could arrest them for growing the plant because it is related to marijuana.

The Vermont Legislature endorsed the production of industrial hemp in 2013 when it passed Act 84. The law cites the low-THC strain of Cannabis sativa, or hemp, as useful in producing “high-strength fiber, textiles, clothing, biofuel, paper products, protein-rich foods, biodegradable plastics, resins, nontoxic medicinal and cosmetic products, construction materials, rope, value-added crafts, livestock feed and bedding, stream buffering, erosion control, water and soil purification and weed control.”

For farmers, it’s a question of opportunity.

“Hemp has great potential for economic revival here in Vermont,” Ken Manfredi of Bridgewater said. Manfredi and his partner, Robin Alberti, grew a quarter-acre of hemp last year on leased land in the town of Chittenden.

Marijuana and industrial hemp are two varieties of the same species, Cannabis sativa. By definition, however, industrial hemp contains no more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant, and cannot produce a high unless consumed in large quantities. It’s hardly a new idea – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp.

Act 84 legalized the growing of industrial hemp in Vermont, with the caveat that producers register with the state and be notified that cultivation of the plant remains a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In 2014, however, President Barack Obama signed a farm bill under which higher education institutions and state agriculture agencies could grow industrial cannabis “for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program” notwithstanding the act, which treats all cultivars of the species as illegal.

The 357 pages of the farm bill made no mention of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which enforces the Controlled Substances Act. Federal narcotics officials have, however, long required that anyone importing cannabis seeds obtain a permit; and importing seeds from places where hemp cultivation is fully legal is the recourse for research institutions, since there are no U.S. suppliers of certified hemp seed – that is, seed certified to have the characteristics sought, such as high oil or fiber content.

University of Vermont field crops expert Heather Darby said that some of her faculty colleagues have taken an interest in working with hemp.

“Initial research, if we receive proper permits, will focus on basic production and agronomy,” she said in an email. She noted that companies as diverse as cosmetics manufacturer Nivea and automaker Ford “have been in contact with us here in Vermont, looking for opportunities.” The latter, she elaborated, “would use the fiber in a number of interior parts of the vehicle — dashboards would be one.”

But having to start with seeds that the DEA treats as marijuana puts the university in what she termed “an interesting situation. Do you move forward with research and put yourself at risk of prosecution?”

“The DOJ and the DEA aren’t part of the farm bill – they don’t follow the same rules,” she said, referring to the Department of Justice, which includes the DEA. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The Controlled Substance Act “creates a closed system,” DEA spokesperson Barbara Carreno said. To track materials in that system, it requires registration of the substances’ handlers.

In theory at least, the act tasks the DEA “with tracking the flow of all controlled substances in the United States. Collectively, that would include all the seeds,” Carreno elaborated in a follow-up email. Monitoring every cannabis seed once it enters the country may seem as hopeless a task as following a BB pellet as it rolls around in a boxcar, and as legalization of cannabis gains momentum across the country, but the DEA is not abandoning what it perceives as its duty.

In the tug of war over cannabis, the agency has yielded some ground. In May 2014, three months after the farm bill’s enactment, the state of Kentucky imported 130 kilograms of hemp seeds from Italy, only to have the DEA seize the shipment on its way to several Kentucky universities and farmers contracted for a pilot growing program overseen by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Two lawsuits ensued. The DEA backed off and allowed the program to proceed.

“At this point, we don’t see importation as being a limiting factor on the program, because we have a process that is satisfactory to both DEA and the [Kentucky] Department of Agriculture,” said the department’s industrial hemp program coordinator, Adam Watson.

Some Vermonters are eager to test industrial hemp’s potential here. Last year, 17 parties registered to grow the crop. Tim Schmalz, who manages the registry at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, said the registrants expected to grow 190.41 acres all told, but only about an acre was actually planted. The shortfall, he said, was because of difficulties in getting seed and the tendency of would-be farmers not to realize the amount of work involved.

As of March, only five parties have registered with the state to grow the crop this year. They include Joel Bedard of Huntington, who said he hoped to get through the DEA red tape and import as much as 3,000 pounds of seed, which would yield up to 100 acres to be cultivated by farmers contracting with him as a broker. He sees hemp as a jack-of-all-trades crop and identified two Vermont breweries that might make hemp beer. The crop’s uses, he said, include remediation of polluted waterways, since very dense plantings filter runoff, preventing it from entering the water.

Hemp is also “capable of fixing heavy metals [and even] radioactive isotopes,” he said. “It was utilized at Chernobyl.”

Some cultivars’ seeds, he said, contain up to 30 percent oil, a percentage he termed “off the charts. And the hearts are more nutritious than flax seed. And it’s gluten-free.”

For processing, his crops would go to Middlebury’s Full Sun Company, which its co-founder Netaka White describes as a producer and processor of specialty oilseed crops.

Using low-THC seed ordered online from Europe, White grew a garden plot of industrial hemp last year – enough to yield a pound of seeds. This year, he intends to plant that seed, which he hopes will produce 60 pounds of seed. Planted in 2016, those 60 pounds could yield a two-ton seed crop, enough by his calculation to plant 260 acres in 2017. That season’s yield would suffice to begin commercial processing for feed meal as well as food oil, which UVM’s Darby characterized as “the low hanging fruit” for Vermont’s nascent hemp industry, since processing facilities such as Full Sun already exist.

White did not obtain a DEA permit to import his seed. Asked if the DEA had come after him, he said, “No, I really have to believe that the DEA doesn’t have a lot of interest in pursuing small endeavors.” He referred to an August 2013 policy memorandum issued to U.S. attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which outlined eight priority areas for enforcement of the Controlled Substance Act. The memo suggests that those priorities do not include industrial hemp.

For their 2014 crop, Manfredi and Alberti, who like White have signed on to the state registry, ordered food-grade hemp seeds from abroad, since hemp as food can be imported legally, although the growing characteristics of the noncertified seed are unknown. They viewed the effort as experimental. But, even with their quarter-acre – a thousand plants — “we still had the biggest legal plot in the Northeast,” Manfredi said. He and Alberti are using the yield from those plants solely for seed.

“We’re going to expand from what we did,” Alberti said. “We’d love to get as many acres as we can.”

She and Manfredi would like ultimately to concentrate on growing a high-oil variety for pressing. They are not growing on their own land, however — and that could put the farmers hosting the crop at risk of an uninvited visit from the DEA.

“The Farm Bill does not exempt farmers in general from federal law that prohibits the growing of hemp,” the DEA’s Carreno said. Such farmers “could be at risk of DEA action. That said, in allocating its enforcement resources, DEA applies the guidance” in the Cole memo.

All of which answers the crucial question of possible busts with a definite maybe. In an interview, Schmalz expressed the uncertainty hovering over growers: “DEA reserves authority to come in and intervene if they feel someone is growing cannabis that might be more than 0.3% THC.”

Against that backdrop, Manfredi, Alberti, Bedard and White are supporting legislation in Congress that would remove barriers to the commercial production of industrial hemp by simply excluding low-THC cannabis from the federal definition of marijuana.

Sponsors include majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Senate and Peter Welch, D-Vt., in the House. In a noncommittal statement, the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he looked forward to “consideration of the bill on its merits” in the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, of which he is the ranking member. Jeff Frank, a spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said only that Sanders had sponsored similar legislation in the past.

With Kentucky — and cannabis-friendly Colorado — already making strides in hemp production, Vermont’s challenge may be to leverage its advantages before hemp’s potential finds a home in other states.

“If farmers are growing hemp for human consumption, for example, or the production of cosmetics, the Vermont label has a certain value,” Schmalz noted, alluding to the marketing factors that give “pure Vermont maple syrup” an aura that “pure Wisconsin maple syrup” hasn’t matched.

“I imagine it is just a matter of time,” UVM’s Darby said, “before all this [legal wrangling] seems ridiculous and people look back and wonder how this happened.”

 


EcoWatch: $620 Million Reasons to Legalize Hemp

Lorraine Chow
March 13, 2015 9:53 am
Full Article

Hemp truly is a cash crop. The total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. last year has been tallied, and the multipurpose plant brought in a stunning $620 million, according to estimates from the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association representing hemp companies, researchers and supporters.

The figure is based on sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products. Total retail sales of hemp foods and body care alone totaled approximately $200 million, according to the HIA.

Mary Jane’s non-intoxicating cousin had been stymied by a federal drug policy until last February when President Obama signed the Farm Bill which contained an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes. The bill also allowed states that already legalized the crop to cultivate hemp within the parameters of state agriculture departments and research institutions.

Currently, 21 states may grow hemp thanks to the Farm Bill, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. More states are moving to legalize industrial hemp farming as well.

“Eleven new states have passed legislation and new businesses are rapidly entering the market now that American farmers in a handful of states are finally beginning to grow the crop legally,” said Eric Steenstra, executive director of the HIA. “Challenges remain in the market and there is a need for Congress to pass legislation to allow farmers to grow hemp commercially in order for the market to continue its rapid growth.”

There’s also been increasing grassroots pressure on the Feds to allow hemp to be grown domestically on a commercial scale. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year. If passed, it would remove all federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, and remove its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

The bill was introduced by Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Kentucky Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner decided last week to co-sponsor the bill, and said in a media release: “Industrial hemp is a safe substance with many practical commercial applications. Removing it from the Controlled Substances Act is a common sense move which would create jobs and get the government out of the way of farmers and our agricultural industry.”

The $620 million figure from was gleaned from natural and conventional retailers, excluding Whole Foods Market, Costco and certain other key establishments, who do not provide sales data, which means the true sales figure could be much higher by at least two and a half, the HIA said.

Hemp retail sales in the U.S. just keep growing. According to data collected by market research firm SPINS, combined U.S. hemp food and body care sales grew in the sampled stores by 21.2 percent or $14,020,239, over the previous year to a total of just more than $80,042,540. Sales in conventional retailers grew by 26.8 percent in 2014, while sales in natural retailers grew by 16.3 percent.


Tenth Amendment Center: Unanimous Vote Moves Industrial Hemp Bill Forward in New Hampshire

By  Shane Trejo
March 9, 2015
Full Article

CONCORD, N.H. (Mar. 11, 2015) The New Hampshire state House approved a bill today that would remove the ban on industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying the federal prohibition on the same. 

Introduced by Elizabeth Edwards (D-Hillsborough), Laura Jones (R-Strafford), Robert Cushing (D-Rockingham), and Michael Sylvia (R-Belknap) on Jan. 8, House Bill 494 (HB494) opens the door for a full-scale commercial hemp market in the state by treating it as any other crop for farming. The bill reads, in part, that “industrial hemp shall not be designated as a controlled substance.”

After passing out of committee unanimously last week, the House approved it today by a voice vote.

In short, industrial hemp would essentially be treated similar to tomatoes by government officials in New Hampshire. By removing the state prohibition on the plant, residents of New Hampshire would have an open door to start industrial farming should they be willing to risk violating the ongoing federal prohibition. This is exactly what has already happened in both Vermont and Colorado.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there too. And a law passed in South Carolina in 2014 authorizes the same.

“What this gets down to is the power of the people,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When enough people tell the feds to pound sand, there’s not much D.C. can do to continue their unconstitutional prohibition on this productive plant.”

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

But, since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.

Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

HB494 an essential first step forward, and will likely need to be followed by additional legislation implementing the program, unless – like in Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – courageous farmers in New Hampshire start growing industrial hemp without further authorization.  It now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.


Capital Ag Press: Senate and House take different paths to legalizing hemp

February 11, 2015
By Don JenkinsFull Article

OLYMPIA — A Senate bill to legalize hemp cultivation takes three pages. A House bill to accomplish the same thing takes 24 pages.

Both chambers appear ready to OK the federally forbidden plant — after all voters legalized growing hemp’s psychoactive Cannabis cousin, marijuana.

But the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House have wildly different approaches, which must be reconciled.

The Senate already has unanimously passed Senate Bill 5012, which simply declares hemp an agricultural crop, no different than apples or wheat.

The legislation takes more than one page only to instruct Washington State University to study hemp’s potential as a commercial crop.

In contrast, House Bill 1552, which has yet to come to a floor vote, calls for the Washington Department of Agriculture to license hemp growers, control the seed supply, randomly test the potency of plants and penalize farmers who break the rules.

In a rare case of asking for more government oversight, the president of the Washington Hemp Industries Association, Joy Beckerman Maher, told a legislative committee that hemp can’t be as unregulated as potatoes or tomatoes.

“Here’s the reality: Industrial hemp is a controlled substance. It is treated as a controlled substance throughout the globe, including the 31 developed countries where we would be getting those desired seeds from,” she said.

WSDA should step in and prevent hemp and marijuana crops from cross-pollinating, ruining everybody’s investment and discrediting Washington’s hemp industry, she said.

“Please do not make the marijuana growers, and the industrial hemp farmers fight this out among themselves,” Beckerman Maher said.

Without seed controls, Washington hemp farmers would be viewed suspiciously worldwide by manufacturers of hemp products, she said.

The prime sponsor of SB 5012, Raymond Democrat Brian Hatfield, said hemp advocates are making things too complicated.

Federal authorities have made clear they expect Washington to closely regulate recreational marijuana, but hemp has a fraction of marijuana’s THC, the chemical that causes psychological effects. Hatfield said he doubts feds will care about hemp.

“This whole universe is changing so rapidly. This is going to be the least of federal concerns — cracking down on hemp farmers,” he said.

State officials say it’s anybody’s guess how many acres of hemp would be grown in Washington. Yakima Valley Sen. Jim Honeyford, who co-sponsored Hatfield’s bill and has long experience in Washington agriculture, has said he doubts many farmers would grow hemp.

The Office of Financial Management estimated WSDA would spend about $900,000 a year regulating hemp if the House bill were adopted. The bill allows WSDA to collect $10 per acre for a 36-month hemp license, though the department would have the authority to raise the fee.

Cannabis lobbyist Ezra Eickmeyer suggested the state create a database to let farmers know how close marijuana and hemp grows are to each other, but otherwise regulate hemp lightly. “We don’t need giant oversight from the government, like we do with marijuana right now,” he said.

Whatcom County hemp entrepreneur Sandy Soderberg told a Senate committee that she’s received “pledges” from farmers through her website to plant about 2,000 acres of hemp. She said, however, that some growers are concerned about the expense and necessity of regulation.

“They feel it conflicts with what we’re trying to portray … that it’s not marijuana. Yet, we’re still licensing it, structuring it as though it were marijuana,” she said.

In an interview, Soderberg said she was primarily concerned about tight restrictions on hemp seeds available to farmers. Nevertheless, she said she agrees that turning hemp loose without rules could lead to problems. “I’m struggling with this, to be quite honest,” she said. “One way or the other, we’re going to have a bill. It’s a matter of getting the right one.”


Reuters: Oregon adopts rules allowing industrial hemp crops

By Courtney Sherwood
Tue Feb 3, 2015
Full Article

(Reuters) – Oregon farmers could plant the state’s first industrial hemp crop this spring, a full year before businesses expect to start growing marijuana for recreational use, a state official said on Tuesday.

Farmers can grow the hemp in exchange for a $1,500 licensing fee and testing to confirm their crop does not possess enough intoxicating chemicals to get people high, said Agriculture Department manager Ron Pence.

But would-be growers of industrial hemp face a host of complications, including cannabis being illegal at the federal level even as prosecutors have cautiously allowed state experiments to go forward. So far, no one has applied for a license, Pence added.

“It’s not clear if there’s an adequate seed supply,” Pence said, noting that federal regulations made it virtually impossible for growers to legally import seeds into the state. Once hemp is grown, federal law also prohibits producers from selling outside Oregon.

Nationwide, 19 states have passed legislation to allow some measure of industrial hemp production, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Last year, Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont became the first states to report legal harvests of the product, according to the Hemp Industries Association.

Oregon’s industrial hemp law, passed by the state Legislature in 2009, is being implemented at the same time as state regulators draft rules governing the recreational use of marijuana under a ballot initiative voters passed last year.

Industrial hemp grown in the state must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, the active ingredient in pot.

Farmers have criticized the state’s fledgling industrial hemp program for banning growers from manufacturing products from hemp seeds, which are commonly used to make cosmetics and food additives.

Rules also require growers to make a three-year commitment to the program, when some are only interested in growing hemp for a year on a trial basis, Pence said, adding the state Legislature was working to address some of the concerns.

 


IVN: 47 U.S. Representatives Co-Sponsor Bipartisan Industrial Hemp Farming Act

By Shawn M. Griffiths
1/22/15
Full Article

Vote Hemp, a major grassroots hemp advocacy group, on Thursday announced the introduction of complementary bills in the U.S. House and Senate, S. 134 and H.R. 525, titled the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015,” with support on both sides of the political aisle. The Act would remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis.

“With bi-partisan support in the Senate and House, we are eager to see 2015 be the year Congress finally passes comprehensive legislation to legalize industrial hemp farming,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. “Historic progress has been made on the issue this past year, as farmers in Vermont, Colorado and Kentucky planted hemp in 2014 thanks to Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, which allowed states that have legalized the crop to grow research and pilot hemp crops.”

The Senate bill was introduced on January 8, 2015, by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The House bill was introduced on Wednesday, January 21, by U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

“I’ve heard from countless Kentuckians about the success of our initial 2014 industrial hemp pilot programs and university studies in the Commonwealth,” said McConnell. “I am especially proud that Representative Massie and I were able to work together in making those projects possible on the federal level via the 2014 Farm Bill. I support this legislation and look forward to seeing industrial hemp prosper in the Commonwealth.”

The 2014 Farm Bill permitted these pilot programs in states that have already passed laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Currently, this applies to 21 states, including Kentucky, that have defined hemp as distinct from drug varieties of Cannabis like marijuana.

“My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again. 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,” Paul said.

Other states that can currently take advantage of the pilot program and could benefit from the passage of this bill include California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

However, only three of these states, Colorado, Kentucky, and Vermont, planted hemp research crops in 2014.