Flurry of hemp initiatives in U.S. states

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Hemp initiatives in states from tiny Rhode Island in the east to expansive Washington state in the USA’s northwest are seeing advances as proponents of the crop see its potential to revive the farm sector and boost state tax coffers — sooner or later.

At the latest count 32 U.S. states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production under state-administered programs. Estimates are that the U.S. imports more than $500 million worth of hemp products annually.

With hemp taking on a rare bi-partisan approach in the United States, here’s HempToday’s review of current efforts to advance hemp growing across the country:

Arizona: Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli has sponsored an initial measure aimed at establishing the framework for an industrial hemp industry. The bill would legalize the cultivation, distribution and sale of industrial hemp under state oversight for licensing and regulation.The bill recently passed the state Senate 26-4 with bipartisan support and is now in the House of Representives.

Florida: Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo proposed allowing state colleges and universities to start industrial hemp programs under which their agriculture schools would be able to establish programs in research, cultivation processing and marketing. The measure should get consideration during the legislative session now under way.

Idaho: Lawmakers have at least floated the idea of making industrial hemp legal to grow for research purposes under a state-controlled regime. Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon said she’s working on the measure.

Illinois: Democratic state Sen. Toi Hutchinson has filed a bill that would allow Illinois farmers to cultivate industrial hemp as part of research projects approved by the state.

Kansas: A legislative committee recently held a hearing on a state industrial hemp bill after which lawmakers said they’ll tweak it following a “good reception.” It would create the Kansas Industry Growth Act, authorizing and promoting research, business development activities, public-private cooperation and educational initiatives to promote the crop.

Kentucky: Already well advanced in development of its hemp industry, Kentucky’s state House of Representatives recently passed a bill which aligns the state’s industrial hemp research pilot program with the federal Farm Bill. The the bill would more fully align Kentucky law with the 2014 Farm Bill, which authorized state-level research pilot programs. It also charges UK’s Regulatory Services laboratory with responsibility for THC testing. Kentucky’s governor is expected to sign off on the measure.

New Hampshire: A state House of Representatives committee has unanimously approved a bill that would remove the state ban on industrial hemp; it would not create a state regulatory structure and treat industrial hemp like other plants. The measure passed out of a state agriculture committee on an 18-0 vote and is expected to eventually be enacted into law.

North Carolina: Farmers have started filing applications to join an already established pilot state hemp research pilot set up in 2015. State rules strictly regulate hemp farming and stipulate that the crop can be used for commercial purposes only.

Pennsylvania: While proponents have complained about slow progress on hemp, one regional coalition recently got certified to research hemp under state guidelines set out earlier this year by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and expects to plant its first crop next month. The University of Pittsburgh will undertake a market analysis study.

Washington: The House of Representatives in early March passed a measure that would remove industrial hemp from the scope of the state’s controlled substances act. The bill would ensure hemp is not regulated as a controlled substance, opening the door for a full-scale commercial hemp market in the state by treating it as any other crop for farming.

Wisconsin: Republican Assemblyman Jesse Kremer recently circulated a draft bill seeking co-sponsors for a bill, which has bipartisan support, that would set a pilot program in motion under state supervised licensing.

Sour note in New Mexico . . .

Meanwhile New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill that would have created a research program for the industrial production of hemp in that state despite its passage by a Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House. It’s the second time Martinez, who gave no rationale for shutting down the bill,  has vetoed such a measure.

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