It hasn't gotten the attention of medical marijuana, but a growing number of states have passed laws authorizing the growth of hemp and are attempting to get the federal government to make it legal nationwide.
By Tim Johnson and Adam Silverman, USA TODAY
Hemp can be cultivated for fiber or oilseed, and it is used to make thousands of products worldwide, including clothing and auto parts. From 1999 through last year, 17 states have enacted measures that would either permit controlled cultivation or authorize research of industrial hemp, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Colorado was the most recent to authorize research in 2010. Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia have passed laws authorizing cultivation, according to NORML.
Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa. Industrial hemp has lower THC content, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.
The federal government classifies all cannabis plants as marijuana and places strict controls on the cultivation of hemp. Industrial hemp was an American staple in colonial times. The output peaked during World War II.
United States: Members Of Congress Introduce First Federal Measure Since 1937 To Legalize The Adult Use Of MarijuanaSubmitted by restore on Fri, 06/24/2011 - 20:42
By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
House lawmakers introduced legislation in Congress today to end the federal criminalization of the personal use of marijuana.
The bipartisan measure, HR 2306 – entitled the 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011' and sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank and Texas Republican Ron Paul along with Reps. Cohen (D-TN), Conyers (D-MI), Polis (D-CO), and Lee (D-CA) – prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under present law, all varieties of the marijuana plant are defined as illicit Schedule I controlled substances, defined as possessing 'a high potential for abuse,’ and ‘no currently accepted medical use in treatment.'
Said Rep. Frank, "Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom. I do not advocate urging people to smoke marijuana, neither do I urge them to drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco, but in none of these cases do I think prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions is good public policy."
Texas Republican Ron Paul is once again seeking to allow for the commercial farming of industrial hemp.
House Bill 1866, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2010, would exclude low potency varieties of marijuana from federal prohibition. If approved, this measure will grant state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
Several states -- including North Dakota, Montana, and Vermont -- have enacted regulations to allow for the cultivation of hemp under state law. However, none of these laws can be implemented without federal approval. Passage of HR 1866 would remove existing federal barriers and allow states that wish to regulate commercial hemp production the authority to do so.
In a statement delivered on May 9 to the House of Representatives, Rep. Paul said: "I first introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act (HR 1866) five years ago to end the federal government’s ban on American farmers growing industrial hemp. In this time, the industrial hemp industry has grown much larger. Despite its American history, industrial hemp is the only crop that we can buy and sell but not farm in the United States. The federal government should change the law to allow American farmers grow this profitable crop as American farmers have through most of our nation’s history. Please cosponsor the Industrial Hemp Farming Act and join me in celebrating Hemp History Week."
At a time when Wisconsin farm families are constantly looking for new sources of revenue, hemp would be a good one.
By Capital Times Editorial
The states of North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, West Virginia, Vermont and Oregon already have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, recognizing that these crops can be used to produce fibers that are useful in the making of rope and other products.
At a time when Wisconsin farm families are constantly looking for new sources of revenue, this is a good one. And it has a history in the state; until 1957, notes Bill Tracy, who chairs the Agronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin, industrial hemp was a significant crop for Wisconsin farmers.
With that combination of current need and relatively recent history in mind, legislators should not hesitate to back a bill, introduced by state Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, which would address the state prohibition on the production of hemp.
The controversy regarding this bill, to the extent that there is any, will have to do with the fact that hemp is cultivated from the same plant that is used to grow marijuana.
By Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Washington, DC: Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, along with co-sponsors Ron Paul (R-TX); Maurice Hinchey (D-NY); Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), will reintroduce legislation today to limit the federal government’s authority to arrest and prosecute minor marijuana offenders.
The measure, entitled an “Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults,” would eliminate federal penalties for the personal possession of up to 100 grams (over three and one-half ounces) of cannabis and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce of pot – making the prosecutions of these offenses strictly a state matter.
Under federal law, defendants found guilty of possessing small amounts of cannabis for their own personal use face up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
Passage of this act would provide state lawmakers the choice to maintain their current penalties for minor marijuana offenses or eliminate them completely. Lawmakers would also have the option to explore legal alternatives to tax and regulate the adult use and distribution of cannabis free from federal interference.
To date, thirteen states have enacted laws ‘decriminalizing’ the possession of marijuana by adults. Minor marijuana offenders face a citation and small fine in lieu of a criminal arrest or time in jail.
What if Americans could buy cigarettes but were banned from growing tobacco? Buy bread but not allowed to grow wheat? That is the case with industrial hemp, a product in everything from car doors to milk...legally.