The United States is the largest importer of industrial hemp. Why? Because it serves countless uses and our farmers are banned from growing it themselves. Why? Because the plant is related to marijuana and lawmakers are still hung up on some sort of reefer-madness scare. But lawmakers in Minnesota may be among the latest to begin a shift in opinions.
While states like Washington and Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana altogether, and also set the stage for a thriving hemp industry, Minnesota’s bill only focuses on industrial hemp. To be sure, however, we already have some relatively lax marijuana laws.
Possession of marijuana will get you slapped with a fine in most circumstances, a far cry from the arrest and criminal charge you can get in other states across the country.
The new bill (SB 1590) was introduced by Senators Brandon Petersen (R-Dist. 35) and Sean R. Nienow (R-Dist.32). It is now before the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. If passed, it will go before the full Senate.
What the bill does is removes hemp from the language of the state’s drug laws. Hemp isn’t a drug. Hemp can’t get you high. So, hemp has no place being listed among the likes of heroin and cocaine.
It contains less than 1% of THC (the chemical compound in marijuana that gets you high).
Worldwide, farmers grow hemp for a variety of things including fuel, clothing, food, and industrial products. Because of the ban in the United States, we have created a booming hemp business just across the border in Canada where their hemp cropland doubled from 2011 to 2012 and our imports of the plant increased 300% in the last ten years.
If passed, there is no telling how the state would regulate the new crop. Eight states have previously approved similar measures, though forward momentum seems to have stopped there. With the federal government breathing down their neck, farmers are wary of making any move towards filling their land with hemp.
Similar to SB1590, there is currently a bill before Congress, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 that would remove the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. If lawmakers here pass our version prior to the feds, we will be prepared to make the most of the new market as soon as legally possible. Until then, we will continue supporting farmers in other countries whose lawmakers are smart enough to tell the difference between cannabis varieties.
Whether you are caught growing hemp or marijuana, you can face serious criminal charges. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.