Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) and 28 co-sponsors, including House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN), have reintroduced legislation in Congress that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
House Bill 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of HR 525 would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” Rep. Massie stated in a press release. “Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.”
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) are supporting the introduction of a companion bill in the US Senate.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”
Previous versions of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act have stalled in Congress. The issue has never before been debated in the Senate.
Additional information regarding HR 525 is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, a long-time supporter of marijuana reform and previous sponsor of several medical marijuana bills, announced Monday that he will introduce a bill that would make adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal and would tax and regulate the substance. According to The Times Herald, the latter policy is what may eventually swing lawmakers in his state:
But money, more than moral appeals or anything else, might talk the loudest in the drive to decriminalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, particularly in the current era of budget shortfalls and lingering economic uncertainty. And with financial concerns helping to fuel the passage of historic pot legalization laws in Colorado and Washington State in November — as well as the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would legalize and levy an excise tax on the sale of the drug — perhaps now is a better time than ever to convince skeptical state lawmakers of the cash benefits of getting into the marijuana business.
Sen. Leach truly believes in this issue, and he wants people to start talking about it more. He tells Raw Story:
“This is inevitable. This will pass. It may take two, it may take four years,” Leach added. “A majority of people don’t support marijuana legalization simply because they haven’t really had cause to revisit the issue in their minds. Once you sit down with people and explain the harm it does in a wide variety of ways, and the be[ne]fits(sic) we can accrue through legalization, I think that people will very quickly change their minds.
… So there’s many who won’t put their name out front on an issue until it gets [mainstream] in their minds. If there was a secret ballot, I predict legalization would pass.”
If you want to help start this conversation with your members of Congress, it has never been easier.