Industrial Hemp Provision Makes It into Farm Bill

Jan 28, 2014

Credit Evelyn Simak, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

An amendment legalizing hemp production for research has made it into the Farm Bill that will be up for a vote soon in Congress. The amendment, co-sponsored by Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, allows universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp for study purposes.

Eric Steenstra is president of the advocacy group Vote Hemp and says hemp has a long history in America. 

“But that history pretty much ended in the 1950s, and all the genetics are lost,” he said. “We need to have research on new varieties. A lot of things have changed in the last 60 years, and there are new markets and opportunities.”

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer pushed Kentucky lawmakers to pass a bill last year that allows industrial hemp production if a federal ban is lifted.  Eleven states, including Tennessee, have introduced hemp legislation this year. 

Steenstra applauds Kentucky for being out in front of the effort. 

“We’re super excited about this and Kentucky has been a leader in making this happen.  I would say James Comer was a huge force,” he said.

Comer has promoted the crop, which can be turned into products ranging from paper to cosmetics.

Hemp was banned decades ago when the government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana.