2011 Hemp Legislation Introduced in California and Congress

By Dion Markgraaff

The California Hemp Farming Bill SB 676 was introduced into our state government this spring, and Rep. Ron Paul introduced H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, into Congress after a successful second annual Hemp History Week. A senate bill in support of industrial hemp farming is expected to follow soon.

State bill SB 676 was introduced in February by State Senator Mark Leno. Senator Leno believes that hemp farming will help revitalize California’s economy. He stated, “The time is long overdue for California farmers to be allowed to grow this sustainable and profitable crop once again. The passage of SB 676 will create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers throughout the state.”

A variety of products made from industrial hemp, including healthy food, natural body care products, and eco-friendly clothing, are made in California. “There are over 50 member businesses of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) that make or sell hemp products in the state of California alone, which could benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber and oil,” says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA. “Because of an outdated federal policy, these businesses are forced to import millions of dollars of industrial hemp from Canada, China and Europe.”

“Dr. Bronner’s currently purchases 20 tons of hemp oil each year from Canada. We look forward to the day that we can meet our supply needs from hemp produced right here in our home state,” says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps of Escondido.

To date, 17 states have passed pro-hemp laws or resolutions, including the California Assembly in 1999 when it passed a resolution declaring that “the Legislature should consider action to revise the legal status of industrial hemp to allow for its growth in California as an agricultural and industrial crop.”

SB 676 would only allow farmers to produce the parts of the industrial hemp plant that are already legal to import under state and federal law: its seed, oil, fiber and woody core. “SB 676 would not conflict with federal law or interfere with the enforcement of marijuana laws,” explains Patrick Goggin, California Legal Counsel for Vote Hemp.

For the fourth time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States over 50 years ago, a federal bill was introduced on May 11th by chief sponsor Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). If passed, H.R. 1831 (the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011) will remove restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed, and the fiber varieties of cannabis.

“We are pleased to see the reintroduction of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in Congress. Vote Hemp is currently working with a Democratic senator who is preparing to introduce companion legislation in the senate in support of industrial hemp farming,” says Steenstra. “It is due time for the senate as well as President Obama and the attorney general to prioritize the crop’s benefits to farmers and to take action like Rep. Paul and the co-sponsors of H.R. 1831 have done. With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits,” adds Steenstra.

U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include San Diego’s Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a company that manufactures the number one selling natural soap in the U.S., and the best-selling hemp food manufacturers such as French Meadow Bakery, Living Harvest, Manitoba Harvest, Nature’s Path, Nutiva and Sequel Naturals, who all make their products from hemp grown in Canada. Sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil are also used by major companies such as Ford Motors, Patagonia and The Body Shop.

“Public support for industrial hemp farming is growing in leaps and bounds in the U.S.,” explains Steenstra. “The second annual Hemp History Week, celebrated from May 2nd -8th, 2011, featured over 550 events in all 50 states. The campaign mobilized the support of tens of thousands of consumers, grassroots activists, and many high-profile celebrities from health and wellness experts to TV and entertainment personalities, professional athletes, and renowned musicians.”

For more information, visit www.votehemp.com

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