New Jersey Bill to Legalize Industrial Hemp Passes Assembly Committee, 6-0

TRENTON, NJ. (Dec. 18, 2015) – Last week, a New Jersey Assembly committee passed a bill to authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state. This bill would effectively block in practice the deplorable federal prohibition on the same.

Introduced in Feb. by Asm. Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), Assembly Bill 2719 (A2719) sets up the framework to effectuate a commercial hemp farming program in the state. It passed in the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee on Dec. 10 with a unanimous 6-0 vote.

The bill reads, in part:

"Notwithstanding any other law, or rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto, to the contrary, a person may plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, distribute, buy, or sell industrial hemp in the State, provided the person complies with the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to… this act."

In order to operate an industrial hemp field lawfully under A2719, farmers would be subject to the following rules and regulations:

"(1) establishment of approved varieties of industrial hemp and methods to distinguish it from any type of marijuana;
(2) protocols for testing plant parts during growth for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol;
(3) guidelines for monitoring the growth and harvest of industrial hemp;
(4) penalties necessary for the administration and enforcement of this act; and
(5) any other issues required to implement this act."

Since the enactment of the reprehensible federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has essentially prevented the production of hemp within the United States. While the agency claims that growing is not prohibited, it also stipulates that growing can only be done with a DEA-issued license.

BEYOND FEDERAL PERMISSION

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 oilseed 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 is still prohibited. The Missouri bill rejects this prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.

By rejecting any need for federal approval, A2719 would set the stage to thwart this federal ban in practice. Passage would join New Jersey with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont – that have passed similar measures.

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, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. Laws passed last year in Tennessee and South Carolina, and this year in North Dakota, Connecticut and Maine, all legalize hemp even though the federal government considers this plant illegal.

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!”.

A2719 is an essential first step toward hemp freedom in the state of New Jersey. Now that is has passed through its committee hearing, it is expected to receive a full vote in the state Assembly.