The long-suffering hemp plant, lumped together with its genetic cousin marijuana as a federally prohibited narcotic in the Controlled Substances Act, is making another attempt at a jailbreak.
Three congressmen have introduced an amendment to the farm bill that would allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for agricultural and academic research.
The amendment would apply only in the states that have passed legislation to allow farmers to grow and cultivate the crop. Colorado Democrat Rep. Jared Polis, Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie and Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced the amendment Tuesday.
“Hemp is not marijuana,” the congressmen wrote in a letter to colleagues urging their support. “Our amendment defines industrial hemp as a product containing less than 0.3 percent THC. At this concentration, and even at much higher concentrations, it is physically impossible to use hemp as a drug.”
“From Colorado to Kentucky to Oregon,” they wrote, “voters across the country have made it clear that they believe industrial hemp should be regulated as agricultural commodity, not a drug. At the very least, we should allow our universities — the greatest in the world — to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural resource.”
Support for legalizing agricultural hemp is arguably broader than legalizing medical marijuana. Thirty-five states have introduced hemp-friendly legislation, with 19 having passed laws allowing farmers to grow it, according to Vote Hemp, a nonprofit pro-hemp organization.
But because of hemp’s continued illegality under federal laws, farmers still face the possibility of arrest by federal law enforcement.
Hemp has numerous industrial uses, including cordage and fibers for clothing. It is also used to reinforce concrete and can be found in plastics and automotive parts. Because its growth is prohibited in the United States, all hemp products used domestically are imported from other countries.
Colorado, which along with Washington legalized recreational marijuana use by adults, is also home to the first legal hemp crop in the country. Sixty acres were planted in May by a farmer who previously used the land to grow alfalfa. Colorado legalized hemp at the same time as marijuana.
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