Friday, April 8, 2016

Unraveling Hemp: The Road to Legalization Part Four

By Keleigh Gibbs

Pennsylvania's history rich in hemp production, even townships named after it, is just part of the reason Democratic Senator Judy Schwank and Republican State Representative Russ Diamond believe Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to play a key role in the production of industrial hemp once again. 

"Our soil, our climate is better suited to growing hemp than most other states in the nation," Representative Diamond said. 

Senate Bill 50, is legislation introduced by Senator Schwank more than a year ago. The bill is a proposal to return hemp as a legal, cash crop in Pennsylvania. 

Representative Diamond has also proposed House Bill 967, a bill with the same purpose. Under the guidelines of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill both proposed bills as they sit now only allow for pilot programs in the initial stages of introducing the crop back into a state. 

But they also allow for marketing research though institutes of higher education, giving farmers the ability to process and sell hemp products. "We're not trying to sell this as a panacea that will increase farm income to wonderful levels," Senator Schwank said. 

So far, Senate Bill 50 has already been approved in the state senate by a vote of 49-0. House Bill 967 is expected to be voted on next week. "I will sign it as soon as it gets to my desk," Governor Wolf said. And that is expected to happen next month. 

"This seems to me to be a good idea to allow Pennsylvania to move in with many of the other states in the country that are qualifying under the federal statute," Governor Wolf said. 

So far over 20 states have legalized the crop in the United States. If the legislation is passed in Pennsylvania next month, the Department of Agriculture would then get regulation and licensing programs up and running. Hemp production in the state would start with a hemp pilot program focusing on research, including marketing of the crop. It is an effort that could start as early as this year. 

"The growing season is coming upon us," Governor Wolf said. "I think the farmers who are a part of the research projects would probably like to have some certainty." 

Contact information for both Senator Judy Schwank and Representative Russ Diamond is listed below. A copy of the legislation is available online.  

Representative Russ Diamond 
District Office 2230 
Lebanon Valley Mall Lebanon, PA 17042 
Phone: 717-277-2101 
Fax: 717-277-2105 
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
Capitol Office Room 53B, 
East Wing PO Box 202102 Harrisburg PA 17120-2102 
Phone: 717-787-2686 
FAX: 717-782-2890 

Senator Judy Schwank 
210 George Street, Suite 201 Reading, PA 19605 
Phone: (610) 929-2151 
Fax: (610) 929-2576 457 
Main Capitol Building Senate Box 203011 
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3011 
Phone: (717) 787-8925 
Fax: (717) 772-0578

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