PHOENIX, Ariz. (Mar. 1, 2017) – An Arizona bill that would legalize the production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes, and set the foundation to end federal prohibition in practice, has passed two important Senate committees.
Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) introduced Senate Bill1337 (SB1337) on Jan. 31. Under the proposed law, industrial hemp would be treated as an agricultural crop subject to regulation by the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
The legislation directs the department to set up a licensing and regulation program for industrial hemp production. A provision in the legislation specifically bars the department from making licensing contingent on federal permission.
“The director may not prohibit or adopt a rule that prohibits a person from growing industrial hemp based on the legal status of industrial hemp under federal law.”
SB1337 passed the Commerce and Public Safety Committee by a 6-1 vote on Feb. 13 with some minor technical amendments. On Feb. 14, it cleared the Appropriations Committee by a 10-0 vote.
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. SB1337 ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.
By rejecting any need for federal approval, SB1337 sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. Arizona could join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, California and Vermont – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.
While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, the Arizona law would clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.
Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, 2105, 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 nullifying 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!”
SB1337 now needs to pass the Rules Committee before moving on to the full Senate for further consideration.