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Industrial Hemp Wins Bipartisan Majority Support in U.S. Congress

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail, June 24, 2013 - After the surprise U.S. House’s 225-200 vote June 20 in favor of industrial hemp, bill sponsor Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) said “Industrial hemp is an important agricultural commodity, not a drug . . . Many states, including Colorado, have demonstrated that they are fully capable of regulating industrial hemp. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp – but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here.”

The bipartisan House measure would allow colleges and universities to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in states which have passed legislation to legalize growing industrial hemp – a list which currently includes nine states: Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

But the House vote went nowhere because in a second surprise vote, the House voted 234 to 195 to reject the proposed 2013 Farm Bill (H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, the FARRM Bill). The industrial hemp endorsement had been passed as an amendment to the FARRM Bill and so went down along with the overall bill.

Two Surprise House Votes -
One surprise was that the Farm Bill itself was voted down despite expectations that it would be passed with strong bipartisan support. In the end, too many conservative Republicans voted against their leadership and against the bill because they wanted even more cuts to the Food Stamp program. Meanwhile, too many Democrats withdrew their support for the Farm Bill because they felt the Food Stamp cuts added to the original House bill at the last minute were far too severe.

The second major surprise was that the Republican-led House voted in favor of easing federal restrictions on growing industrial hemp. The endorsement was a surprise largely because the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lobbied very aggressively against the industrial hemp amendment which had been championed by the bipartisan team of Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Despite compelling evidence that non-psychoactive industrial hemp is distinct from and easily distinguishable from its distant cousin marijuana, the DEA deluged members of Congress with a list of “Hemp Talking Points” which present industrial hemp and marijuana as indistinguishable. One example of the DEA’s one-sided presentation is that the talking points cite fires and explosions from distilling “hash oil” as a reason to continue banning industrial hemp. The DEA’s case ignores the fact that no amount of distillation would be able to produce a psychoactive end product from using industrial hemp rather than marijuana.

The DEA talking points also ignore the fact that marijuana growers lobby against growing industrial hemp because they recognize that growing industrial hemp anywhere near marijuana quickly lowers the marijuana plants’ potency through cross-pollination.

In a third example of misleading claims, the DEA talking points ignore the fact that industrial hemp is now grown around the world, including in Canada, without causing any of the problems which the DEA attempts to link to industrial hemp.

Read the U.S. DEA’s “Hemp Talking Points.” Read about NAIHC board members’ testimony in favor of industrial hemp. Read or download the report which Dr. Paul Mahlberg presented to the Kentucky legislators: “Industrial Hemp and its Relationship to Marijuana.”

Congressman Polis, backed by supporters which include Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN), the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, now plans to reintroduce his federal industrial hemp bill either as an amendment to other legislation or as a stand-alone bill. He insists that “When you have a Congressional majority on any issue, there are a variety of ways you can move forward” and that “The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities – the greatest in the world – to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”

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