Although not quite as groundbreaking as recreational marijuana legalization, a big victory has been won for hemp advocates in California. Governor Jerry Brown officially signed SB 566, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act into law, making it legal for farmers to cultivate industrial hemp as a commercial crop without fear of fines or arrest.
Just to be clear, hemp is completely different from the recreational drug that was recently legalized in Colorado and Washington. Though a close cousin of marijuana, hemp has none of the psychoactive qualities: ingest it any way you can, and you still won’t get “high.”
Sadly, hemp was lumped in with marijuana when the government decided to launch the long and unproductive war on drugs, something the founding fathers would have found most shocking.
A few historical facts about hemp via Hemp History Week:
- Industrial hemp has been grown in the U.S. since the first European settlers arrived in early 1600′s.
- The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.
- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp and actively advocated for commercial hemp production.
- More than 150,000 acres of hemp were cultivated as a part of the USDA’s “Hemp for Victory” program during WWII.
With social opinions about marijuana changing daily (medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia), hemp is also experiencing a long overdue renaissance.
“The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act will establish a framework for farming the oil seed and fiber varieties of the plant, which are used in a myriad of everyday consumer products, including food, body care, clothing, paper, auto parts, composites, building materials, and bio-fuels. Enforcement and oversight of hemp production would be conducted in concert with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and county agricultural commissioners, as is done with other crops,” reports the Sacramento Bee.
Of course, cultivating hemp for commercial purposes is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. But with the government’s recent announcement that it wouldn’t challenge state medical or recreational marijuana legalization, hemp supporters are confident that they can proceed without interruption.
“With the signing of this bill, California is poised to grow industrial hemp when the federal government gives states the green light,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco, the author of SB 566, in a statement. “In the past year, the conversation to legalize the cultivation of hemp has gained momentum at the federal level, and it is only a matter of time before a farmer’s right to grow hemp is restored. Hemp, which is already found in hundreds of consumer products manufactured in our state, is a perfect crop for California. It has great potential to revitalize family farms, create new jobs and stimulate the economy.”
The hemp bill drew support from the California State Sheriffs’ Association, individual county sheriffs, family and organic farmers, environmental organizations, labor unions and businesses statewide.
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