U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., today introduced legislation that would allow American farmers to grow and profit from industrial hemp.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. Specifically, the bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Oregon is among eight states that have already defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to production, and the Kentucky state Senate Agriculture Committee this week unanimously approved a bill to license hemp producers. However under current law, farmers in states that allow hemp must still seek a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration or risk raids and seizures by federal agents.
The U.S. is the world's largest consumer of hemp, but it remains the only major industrialized country that bans farming the product. U.S. imports have consistently grown over the past decade -- increasing by 300 percent over that period. And, between 2011 and 2012, the number of acres in Canada -- where 90 percent of U.S. imports come from -- devoted to growing hemp nearly doubled.
"Unfortunately, there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation, and the ban on growing industrial hemp is certainly among them," Wyden said. "The opportunities for American farmers and businesses are obvious here. It's time to boost revenues for farmers and reduce the costs for the businesses around the country that use hemp."
"The Industrial Hemp Farming Act paves the way to creating jobs across the country -- from Kentucky to Oregon and everywhere else," Paul said. "Allowing American farmers to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our states' economies and bring much-needed jobs in the agriculture community."
"I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul and Senate colleagues, that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide," McConnell said. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky's economy and to our farmers and their families."
Last June, Wyden attempted to amend the farm bill to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. Two months later, Wyden introduced similar legislation along Senators Merkley, Paul and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 is the Senate companion bill to H.R. 525, which was introduced last week in the House with 28 original co-sponsors.