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Industrial hemp farming legislation introduced in Congress

Agriculture.com Staff 02/14/2007 @ 8:55am

For the second time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States, a federal bill has been introduced that would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp, according to Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization working to shift federal regulation of industrial hemp back to the USDA from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), is a chief sponsor of H.R. 1009, the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007."

"It is indefensible that the United States government prevents American farmers from growing this crop. The prohibition subsidizes farmers in countries from Canada to Romania by eliminating American competition and encourages jobs in industries such as food, auto parts and clothing that utilize industrial hemp to be located overseas instead of in the United States," said Dr. Paul. "By passing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act the House of Representatives can help American farmers and reduce the trade deficit- all without spending a single taxpayer dollar."

U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a California company who manufactures the number-one-selling natural soap, and FlexForm Technologies, an Indiana company whose natural fiber materials are used in over 2 million cars, according to Vote Hemp. Hemp food manufacturers such as French Meadow Bakery, Hempzels, Living Harvest, Nature's Path and Nutiva now make their products from Canadian hemp. Although hemp grows wild across the U.S., a vestige of centuries of hemp farming, the hemp for these products must be imported.

Health Canada statistics show that 48,060 acres of industrial hemp were produced in Canada in 2006. Farmers in Canada have reported that hemp is one of the most profitable crops that they can grow. Hemp clothing is made around the world by well-known brands such as Patagonia, Bono's Edun and Giorgio Armani.

Vote Hemp leaders say there is strong support among key national organizations for a change in the federal government's position on hemp. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) "supports revisions to the federal rules and regulations authorizing commercial production of industrial hemp." The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has also passed a pro-hemp resolution.

Numerous individual states have expressed interest in industrial hemp as well. Fifteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation; seven (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. North Dakota has issued state licenses, the first in fifty years, to two farmers so far. Rep. Paul's bill would remove federal barriers and allow laws in these states regulating the growing and processing of industrial hemp to take effect.

"Under the current national drug control policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it can't be grown by American farmers," says Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. "The DEA has taken the Controlled Substances Act's antiquated definition of marijuana out of context and used it as an excuse to ban industrial hemp farming. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007 will bring us back to more rational times when the government regulated marijuana, but told farmers they could go ahead and continue raising hemp just as they always had," says Mr. Steenstra.

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