BANGOR, ME — The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee voted 12-1 this week to approve a bill that would loosen the restrictions on the cultivation of hemp in Maine.
The lone vote against the bill came from Republican Senator Roger Sherman, who, according to sources, wanted to remain consistent with his previous votes on cannabis related bills, and will not contest the bill on the Senate floor.
First introduced in the House by Representative Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), LD 525 would remove a provision from Maine’s existing hemp regulations that requires approval from the Federal Government to license farmers to grow industrial hemp.
Because of the current federal ban on the cultivation of hemp, the only hemp currently grown in Maine is for research and academic use. Only the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Maine are authorized to grow hemp in Maine.
The bill also removes the requirements that an applicant for an initial license to grow industrial hemp for commercial purposes must submit a set of the applicant’s fingerprints and file with the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry documentation indicating that the seeds planted were a type and variety of hemp approved by the commissioner.
Only one committee member voted against the bill, which now heads to the House and Senate for further consideration and votes.
Supporters of LD 525 are hopeful that the passage of the bill will allow Maine farmers to diversify their crops. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing. The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to the Congressional Resource Service.
Of the eight states who previously approved industrial hemp legislation, only Hawaii has received a federal waiver allowing them to grow an acre of hemp for research purposes.
Federal legislation, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana is currently pending in the US Senate and House of Representatives