Saturday, January 2, 2016

5 Facts About California's Legalization of Industrial Hemp Farming

By Andrea Miller

Cultivating industrial hemp, a part of the cannabis sativa plant, is illegal in much of the U.S. Despite the many uses of this crop, including fuel, food, plastics, and textiles, it has been banned for decades in this country because of its close association with marijuana. However, as the movement to legalize weed gains momentum, so, too, does the movement to legalize industrial hemp. California is one of the few states to have passed a law allowing the growth of marijuana. 

Here are five facts about this relatively new law. 

1. Industrial hemp growers in California
 must be registered with the state. Their operations must also be federally sanctioned before they receive permission to cultivate this crop in the state since cultivating marijuana for purposes other than research is still a federal crime.

2. Hemp may currently be grown in the state for research purposes. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed a law that allows industrial hemp to be grown by institutions of higher education for research purposes, provided they go through the proper federal channels. Shortly thereafter, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released a legal opinion confirming that colleges and universities can now grow industrial hemp in the state.

3. The new law has potential to have a large economic impact for the state. In 2012, $500 million worth of industrial hemp products were sold in California. However, these products — including raw hemp materials — were all imported from overseas and from Canada. When fully legalized, industrial hemp has the potential to be a windfall for the state. 

4. The bill has a long history in California. Various versions of a bill calling for the legalization of industrial hemp have existed in the state since 1999. The current version has been championed by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno since 2005, and has been vetoed several times. Even though the bill is not legalizing weed specifically, critics note that growth of industrial hemp may make it more difficult to detect illegal marijuana-growing operations.

5. The bill calls for an economic impact review
 in five years. That means that the state will have a true picture of how industrial hemp can affect the state’s fiscal outlook, and may be able to serve as a model for other states considering legalizing this versatile crop.

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