New Law: Connecticut Bill Authorizes Hemp Farming!

HARTFORD, Conn. (June 18, 2015) - On Tuesday, a bill that would remove the ban on industrial hemp farming in the state, setting the stage to effectively block in practice the federal prohibition on the same, became law without a signature from the Governor.

Introduced by State Reps. Melissa Ziobron (R-34) and Aundré Bumgardner (R-41), House Bill 5780 (HB5780) opens the door for a full-scale commercial hemp market in the state by treating it as any other crop for farming. The bill removes any mention of industrial hemp from the part of the criminal code that classifies marijuana as a banned controlled substance.

From the official summary of the bill:

This bill legalizes industrial hemp by removing it from the state “marijuana” and “cannabis-type substances” definitions, thereby removing its status as a controlled substance. Thus, the bill allows industrial hemp to be grown, used, and sold under state law [emphasis added]

After passing out of committee unanimously in March, the House approved this month by a vote of 142-2 and the Senate concurred with a 36-0 vote.

EFFECT

In short, industrial hemp would essentially be treated like other plants, such as tomatoes, by government officials in Connecticut. By removing the state prohibition on the plant, residents of Connecticut would have an open door to start industrial farming should they be willing to risk violating the ongoing federal prohibition. This is exactly what has already happened in both Vermont and Colorado.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively thwarting 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 who hopes to plant 25 acres this year. Laws passed last year in South Carolina and this year in North Dakota and Maine all take on, to varying degrees, the federal prohibition on hemp.

“What this gets down to is the power of the people,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When enough people tell the feds to pound sand, there’s not much D.C. can do to continue their deplorable prohibition on this productive plant.”

HUGE MARKET POTENTIAL

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 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!”.

But, since the enactment of the unconscionable federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.

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."

HB5780 an essential first step forward, and will likely need to be followed by additional legislation implementing the program, unless – like in Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – courageous farmers in Connecticut start growing industrial hemp without further authorization.  It goes into effect on July 1.

ACTION ITEMS

For other statesCall your state legislators and politely urge them to introduce a bill similar to this Connecticut law such as our Hemp Freedom Act.