Arizona Bill Would Legalize Industrial Hemp

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Feb. 1, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Arizona Senate would remove the state ban on industrial hemp, setting the stage to block federal prohibition on the plant in practice.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) introduced Senate Bill 1045 (SB1045) on Jan. 10. The legislation would simply remove industrial hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances. This would open the door for a full-scale commercial hemp market in the state by treating it like any other crop for farming.

SB1045 would not require any license to grow hemp, and it would create no state regulatory structure. This would have a similar effect as a bill passed in Connecticut in 2015. In short, the state would treat industrial hemp like other plants, such as tomatoes. By ending state prohibition, residents in Arizona would have an open door to start industrial hemp farming should they be willing to risk violating ongoing federal prohibition.

“There’s almost nothing in there to get high with. You’ll die of smoke inhalation, Borrelli told the Arizona Capitol Times. “There’s no reason why it should not be grown for industrial use, like cotton, and exported.”

Prosecutors in the state have already expressed opposition to the bill, arguing it will hinder efforts to prosecute marijuana crimes.

FEDERAL FARM BILL

Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”

"…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law."

In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. SB1045 simply ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production in Arizona anyway.

OTHER STATES

By rejecting any need for federal approval, state legalization of hemp sets the stage to thwart the federal hemp ban in practice. Arizona could join other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, California and others – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.

While prospective hemp growers still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, these laws clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state. As more states simply ignore federal prohibition, the likelihood of federal enforcement diminishes.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively blocking federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2 of 2015, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately stopping the federal ban in effect.

HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP

According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

SB1045 would represent an essential first step toward hemp freedom in Arizona.

UP NEXT

SB1045 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it needs to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.