Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday, urging his colleagues to back his amendment to let U.S. farmers grow hemp.
The senator's amendment would remove a federal regulation banning farmers from growing hemp, replacing it with a state-administered permit system. The amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Wyden said it's not an attempt to legalize marijuana, and that he's confident that when colleagues get "more information on this outrageous, outlandish regulation, I think most of my colleagues are going to say that the restriction on industrial hemp is really a poster child for dumb regulation."
The senator noted that industrial hemp has less than .03 percent THC level, much lower than marijuana.
"The bottom line is no one is going to get high on industrial hemp," Wyden said.
Vote Hemp released an action alert encouraging support for Wyden's proposed amendment to the Farm Bill, S.3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, which would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of ?marihuana.?
The group said Wyden?s amendment will empower American farmers by allowing them to once again grow industrial hemp, a profitable commodity with an expanding market. The cultivation of industrial hemp will be regulated by state permitting programs, like North Dakota?s, and will not impact the federal government?s long-standing prohibition of marijuana. The language of the amendment mirrors that of H.R. 1831, a bill introduced in the House this session.
?Industrial hemp is used in many healthy and sustainable consumer products. However, the federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp has forced companies to needlessly import raw materials from other countries,? Wyden said. ?My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here, helping both producers and suppliers to grow and improve Oregon?s economy in the process.?
To date, 31 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and seventeen have passed legislation, while eight states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research.
However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in these states risk raids by federal agents and possible forfeiture of their farms if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive drug varieties.
?This is the first time since the 1950s that language supporting hemp has come to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote. The last time such language was presented was the Miller?s Amendment to the Marihuana Tax Act,? says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp.
?The time is past due for the Senate as well as President Obama and the Attorney General to prioritize the crop's benefits to farmers and to take action like Rep. Paul and the cosponsors of H.R. 1831 have done. With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits," adds Steenstra.
Last year, for the fourth time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States over 50 years ago, a bill was introduced by Rep. Ron Paul in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed the bill H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011, would remove restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. Senator Wyden is currently preparing to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.
The amendment comes on the heels of the Obama administration?s reply to Vote Hemp?s We the People petition The response conflates industrial hemp as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Hemp advocates say this contradicts the clear definition of marijuana presented in Title 21 of United States Code 802(16) that explicitly excludes the oilseed and fiber varieties of the hemp plant that are legal to manufacture, consume, process and purchase throughout the United States without penalty of controlled substance violation.
"Senator Wyden?s effort is unprecedented and totally commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law, but rather the misinterpretation of existing law by the Obama Administration,? says Steenstra.