The latest effort to get a federal hemp bill enacted in the United States is getting hearings in two House of Representatives committees, marking the first time the proposed legalization measure has advanced that far in the U.S. lawmaking process. The bill, HR-3530, introduced by Kentucky Rep. James Comer, is currently being heard in the Subcommittee on Health, and the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
Legislation to legalize hemp has been introduced multiple times since 2005 in the United States. The latest draft measure, otherwise known as “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017,” was supported by legislators from leading U.S. hemp state Colorado, and the tobacco states of Virginia and Kentucky, among others. In effect, the bill would remove hemp from the U.S. government’s list of controlled substances and treat hemp the same as standard crops like corn, wheat, or soybeans.
While Comer had previously announced that a “prominent Democrat” would co-sponsor the bill, when it finally was put forth earlier this year, Comer, a Republican, was the only sponsor. Nonetheless, hemp has proven a rare bi-partisan issue among those in the congress from farm states struggling to improve their fortunes. Comer’s fellow Kentuckian legislator Sen. Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, is generally known to be working over the Senate on behalf of industrial hemp, and Kentucky’s other Senator, Paul Rand, is also in support of the bill.
Thirty U.S. states have federally-controlled hemp production and research under way in combination with state agriculture departments. But advocates say the bill would lift all federal constraints on hemp cultivation. A key result of that would be that hemp industry stakeholders could get greater access to banks and insurance companies who are now reluctant or in some cases prohibited from dealing with hemp farmers and processors.