UPDATE: The House just made Massie's amendment a moot point by rejecting the farm bill in a 234-195 bipartisan vote.
Earlier: Colleges and universities would be allowed to grow hemp for academic research under an amendment to the farm bill approved by a bipartisan vote in the House on Thursday.
The proposal was introduced by Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie along with Democrats Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado, and passed by a 225-to-200 vote. It applies only to states that have authorized the crops cultivation.
A majority of Kentucky’s congressional representatives have been vocal supporters for easing federal restrictions on hemp, which is illegal to grow in the U.S. due to its genetic relation to marijuana. Opponents against the language argued the amendment will hamper law enforcement efforts because the crop is difficult to distinguish between its cannabis cousin.
But Massie says hemp is not marijuana, adding the amendment will help move the research forward to one day allow farmers to grow the crop legally.
"People think it’s about drugs but when they get done laughing about the word hemp and realize industrial hemp is not marijuana they realize it’s a jobs bill and an opportunity for Kentucky farmers," he says. "What this amendment does is it carves out a very small exception for universities to do research without running afoul of the drug laws. And I hope it’s a precursor to allowing all of the farmers in Kentucky to grow industrial hemp."