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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."




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