Hemp is a versatile, durable and rapidly renewable fiber that’s been used throughout history to make textiles, paper, rope and myriad other products. Sturdy, absorbent and anti-microbial, hemp is three times stronger than cotton and grows well without pesticides (unlike traditional cotton, which requires mega-doses of chemicals). Yet because it’s a distant cousin of marijuana—with less than 1 percent of the psychoactive ingredient, Tetra hydrocannabinol (THC)—hemp is an illegal crop in the United States. This is ridiculous.
North Dakota was the first state to legalize industrial hemp production in 1999. Last month California state Senator Mark Leno introduced a bill to allow farmers in the state to grow non-psychoactive, low-THC, oilseed and fiber varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant—which has no value as a recreational drug. SB 676 would only allow farmers to produce and enter into the marketplace the parts of the industrial hemp plant already legal to import under state and federal law: its seed, oil, fiber and woody core. "SB 676 would not conflict with federal law or interfere with the enforcement of marijuana laws," explains Patrick Goggin, California legal counsel for Vote Hemp.
Leno believes hemp farming could help revitalize California's economy, "The time is long over due for California farmers to be allowed to grow this sustainable and profitable crop once again,” he said. “The passage of SB 676 will create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers throughout the state."
More than 50 California businesses belong to the Hemp Industries Association, representing healthy food and natural body care products as well as eco-friendly clothing. These companies could benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber and oil, says HIA executive director Eric Steenstra. "Because of an outdated federal policy, these businesses are forced to import millions of dollars of industrial hemp from Canada, China and Europe," he adds.
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido, says his company purchases 20 tons of hemp oil each year from Canada. “We look forward to the day that we can meet our supply needs from hemp produced right here in our home state," he says.
To date, 17 states have passed pro-hemp laws or resolutions. Last year five states passed hemp legislation; Colorado passed a hemp resolution, and Minnesota passed a hemp study bill. Californians, encourage your state legislators to pass this important bill. The rest of the country would benefit from following in your footsteps.
Hemp looks like marijuana, but it won't get you high no matter how much you ingest.