SACRAMENTO, CA — A bill that would allow California farmers to grow industrial hemp received a favorable report from a Senate committee on Thursday, who recommended the bill’s passage by a vote of 7-0.
The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, Senate Bill 566, was given the green light by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and has previously been approved by the Committee on Public Safety by a 5-0 vote. The bill will now be scheduled for a third reading by the full California Senate.
If passed, the bill sponsored by state Senator Mark Leno and Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor would revise the state definition of “marijuana” to exclude industrial hemp, and would establish a licensing procedure for farmers wishing to cultivate industrial hemp.
The bill would take effect upon the federal government lifting the current ban on hemp cultivation in the United States.
The United States Senate is currently considering legislation that would exclude industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act’s definition of marijuana, in addition to a seperate bill, “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” which remains pending as stand-alone legislation in both the House and Senate but has yet to receive a legislative hearing.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Hemp products can legally be sold in the United States, but the hemp must be imported from other countries. Sales of hemp products in the United States have grown steadily since 1990 to achieve over $500 million in annual sales in 2012.
California’s hemp manufacturers currently import “tens of thousands” of acre’s worth of hemp seed, oil and fiber products that could potentially be produced by California farmers at a more competitive price than the international imports, according to Sen. Leno, and locally grown hemp would create jobs for California’s work force.
Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production.
Numerous states are considering legislation this year to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp.
Hemp use archaeologically dates back to the Neolithic Agein China, with hemp fiber imprints found on Yangshao culture pottery dating from the 5th century BC. Historians estimate that hemp was first cultivated by humans about 12,000 years ago.
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.
Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
The world’s leader in hemp production is China.