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Industrial Hemp Making Headlines & Progress

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NAIHC.org, June 6, 2014 – Industrial hemp has scored a series of resounding bipartisanship victories in Congress this week. Representing a sharp break with partisan gridlock, these victories are helping generate lots of positive media attention.

In the latest victory, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted a decisive 22 to 8 on June 5 to approve a hemp amendment co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) The amendment which matches language approved earlier by the House is designed to prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or any other federal agency from taking any further action to prevent state hemp research projects.

In May, the DEA blocked Kentucky Department of Agriculture research by confiscating hemp seed which had been imported from Italy to launch the research. Kentucky was able to get the seed and start planting at the end of May, but only after taking the DEA to court. The state successfully insisted that state hemp research was specifically authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill which became law in February. When faced with the law suit, DEA backed down and released the seed.

Sen. McConnell explained that the industrial hemp amendment passed this week “will help prevent our legal hemp seeds secured by state Departments of Agriculture and used for legal pilot programs from being blocked by DEA or other federal agencies in the future. These legal pilot programs authorized by my [Farm Bill] legislation could help boost our state’s economy and lead to future jobs.”

A Merkley release explained that the bipartisan amendment to the Commerce, Science and Justice appropriations bill requires “the Department of Justice to respect Oregon and Kentucky’s state industrial hemp laws” to “ensure that the states’ research on industrial hemp can continue, with potential jobs and economic benefits.”

In a June 3 Huffington Post article on “Making History This Week With Hemp,” Ben Droz notes that industrial hemp is gaining strong support in Congress: “Last week, the House of Representatives voted to support not one, but two bipartisan amendments, and both passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Yesterday, hemp language was debated in the Senate, where the Appropriations committee again voted overwhelmingly to support industrial hemp research.” He adds that these victories are remarkable when “In Congress these days, it’s hard to get anything done on a bipartisan basis.”

Droz writes that the Senate vote “solidifies the intent of Congress as opening the door for industrial hemp research to begin immediately” – well timed since this week is the 5th annual Hemp History Week.

Along with many other print and online publications, Rolling Stone is also paying close attention to industrial hemp developments. In an extensive June 3 article on “How a 20-year campaign to distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana scored an epic victory,” Coco McPherson explains that “Buried in February’s $956 billion farm bill is an amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Massie (R-Ky.), that legally distinguishes industrial hemp from marijuana after decades of conflation. It defines hemp as an agricultural crop rather than a drug — and effectively frees American farmers to grow it for the first time in almost 60 years.

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