Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, submitted a last minute addition to the Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 that would legalize the production of industrial hemp. Wyden read from a prepared text saying, “Industrial hemp is used in many healthy and sustainable consumer products. However, the federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp has forced companies to needlessly import raw materials from other countries. My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here..”
Hemp has long been prohibited because of its relation to marijuana, technically a schedule one substance. Keeping hemp illegal in 2012 seems outdated with most American’s understanding that marijuana can get you high, industrial hemp cannot. Economists and business researchers have been saying for years that hemp has the potential to be worth millions, if not billions, if allowed to be farmed. Hemp production can be used as paper and fabric production, as oil and fuel production and hemp is now being used in the construction sector, making building materials like natural flooring and “hempcrete” a product that is superior to traditional concrete in many ways.
An advisory from the Hemp advocacy group “VOTE HEMP” said that the time is due for the Senate as well as the President and the Attorney General to prioritize the crops benefits to farmers and take action. Eric Steenstra the president of Vote Hemp says that this is the first time since the 1950′s that language supporting hemp has come to the floor of the House of Senate for a vote. The last time Hemp farming as an issue made it to the floor was an amendment to the Marijuana Tax Act. The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 will definitely get a vote, but it’s not clear if it has a shot. Conservative groups have taken action contacting Senators to vote against the bill which is receiving much attention this week because of many of the attachments that were added that were unrelated to agricultural sectors. Senator Debbie Stabenow, from Michigan has called on other Senators to stop adding unrelated amendments in an attempt to save the bill.
Bills seeking to legalize industrial hemp for farmers have passed in Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia. What you can do, is contact your Senator and urge them to vote to pass the Agricultural Reform Food and Jobs Act of 2012. Its passage would mean a national law legalizing hemp. We would still need to clear up the conflicts with the DEA’s interest in hemp, but it is a first very, very big step.