State legisature passes Leno-Devore measure allowing
farmers to grow industrial hemp
From the Office of Assemblyman Mark Leno
August 22, 2006
SACRAMENTO - Assembly Bill 1147 authored by Assemblyman
Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine),
permitting California farmers to grow industrial hemp for the
sale of seed, oil and fiber to manufacturers passed the State
Assembly yesterday on a vote of 43 to 28. The bill will now go
to the Governor's desk for his signature.
"Products manufactured with industrial hemp are already
a multimillion dollar industry in California, but because we don't
allow our farmers to grow it, California manufacturers are forced
to buy hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries," said
Assemblyman Mark Leno. "This measure will allow California
to lead the way in allowing our farmers to supply a $270 million
industry that's growing by $26 million each year."
Sponsored by Vote Hemp, AB 1147 would permit California farmers
to cultivate industrial hemp, a variety of cannabis that grows
up to 16 feet tall and resembles bamboo. Industrial hemp has less
than 0.3% THC and has no psychoactive effects while marijuana
contains 3 to 15% THC. In 2004, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
ruled that the DEA did not have the authority to regulate industrial
hemp under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. The DEA decided
not to appeal that decision and the Court's ruling now stands
as U.S. law on the issue.
"This bill allows California farmers to compete with overseas
industrial hemp farmers," said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore,
"Law enforcement will not be impacted because asset forfeiture
laws act as a powerful deterrent to farmers growing illegal marijuana;
they simply won't risk seizure of their fields. That's why marijuana
is usually grown on government lands in clandestine groves. Law
enforcement can easily discern the difference between hemp and
marijuana as they do now in over 30 nations."
The U.S. Congress has never expressly prohibited the cultivation
of industrial hemp, but federal regulators have inferred that
prohibition from a long-standing definition of marijuana in U.S.
law. However, when that definition was debated in Congress in
1937, Senators and Representatives were told that domestic production
of industrial hemp would not be prohibited.
Advocates believe that AB 1147 would regulate the farming of
industrial hemp in a manner that conforms with federal law. The
measure prohibits hemp cultivation outside agricultural fields
or research settings. Growing it in backyards and clandestine
settings is not permitted. The bill also has tight controls on
hemp plants that relieve law enforcement of the burden of having
to discern legal hemp from illegal marijuana in common drug busts.
Industrial hemp is one of the strongest natural fibers known
and the plant is grown and processed throughout the world for
body care products, food, paper, clothing, automotive parts, building
materials, and numerous other uses. The seed has many nutritional
benefits because it contains essential fatty acids, including
omega-3 commonly found in fish, and is an alternative source of
protein. Hemp also has strong environmental benefits. It's a source
for paper that could enable us to save our trees for higher end
uses such as lumber. Hemp requires little or no agricultural chemicals,
smothers weeds, and improves soil conditions, making it an excellent
rotational crop in both organic and conventional farming.
"Nutiva imports over two million pounds of Canadian organic
hempseed every year," said John W. Roulac, founder and CEO
of Nutiva, a California based health foods manufacturer. "We
look forward to buying hempseed from California farmers. This
is a win-win situation as we will save shipping costs and reduce
oil consumption, while California farmers will gain access to
profitable new markets."