So growing and producing industrial hemp sounds like a good idea. So what is all the talk about hemp and more specifically, what are the hemp provisions in the new farm bill?

Don't get excited too quickly. The new farm bill does not clear the way for farmers across the nation to rush out and buy seeds that will germinate into a full crop. But it does lay some of the groundwork required to get there.

What came as a surprise to many, provisions related to a possible road to the legalization of hemp production came when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who is also the Senate minority leader, helped to add a small provision to the farm bill before just many knew what was happening.

To clear the air, growing hemp domestically is illegal according to federal law. While the farm bill provision will not overturn that prohibition, it will block federal authorities from cracking down on hemp farmers, researchers and higher-education institutions in areas where the crop is legal.

Industrial hemp cultivation is currently legal (according to state laws) in Colorado, Oregon, California, Kentucky, Vermont, Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Maine, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But hemp grown in these states still represents a violation of federal law, meaning if the feds wanted to clamp down on the issue, they have the legal authority to do so. Instead, they have turned a blind eye, but only after making a number of extremely limiting, and expensive, provisions including erecting tall fences and adding security measures to areas where hemp is grown.

But in spite of federal hemp laws, the popularity of the idea of hemp production is growing. In addition to the states where hemp production is already approved by state law, two dozen other states have passed pro-hemp resolutions, so the new farm bill provisions could open the door to a majority of states quickly opting to conduct research in an effort to speed federal legislation that would see the return of hemp as a preferred, commercially produced agricultural crop.

Universities in the states where local law allows hemp production will now be allowed to develop research plots, supposedly to provide the research needed to clear the way for not only relaxing federal anti-hemp laws, but also repealing them altogether.

The bottom line is that hemp is already being used in the U.S. to make rope, soaps, clothes, auto parts and numerous other products that are common. For now, the hemp used in them comes from Canada, Turkey or one of several other foreign sources/countries that have long produced hemp crops for world trade.

But now not only are many saying, and apparently the U.S. Senate is endorsing, the idea that the time is right for a return to lawful hemp production. The new farm bill seems to represent a step in that direction.


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