For the first time in modern history, members of the United States Senate have introduced legislation in Congress to allow for the commercial production of industrial hemp. Last week, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced Senate Bill 359 to amend the US Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
Senator McConnell is the Senate minority leader. He is a former opponent of hemp law reform.
“I am convinced that allowing [hemp] production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy,” Sen. McConnell said in a statement. “The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me.”
Senate Bill 359 is the companion bill to House Bill 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013. That measure has 28 co-sponsors.
Eight states — Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of HR 525/S 359 would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”
Additional information regarding HR 525/S 359 is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.