A bipartisan group of members of Congress introduced legislation Thursday to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.
Currently eight states -- Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia -- allow industrial hemp production or research, but federal law, which requires nearly-impossible-to-obtain-permits to grow hemp, trumps those state laws.
The ban on hemp farms had/has a lot to do with protecting the interests and profits of William Randolph Hearst, who owned acres and acres of forest land and did not want the more durable hemp paper to cut into his profits, and DuPont who owned the patent on converting petroleum to plastic. Nearly everything made of plastic can be made from renewable hemp. Synthetic fabric makers have also long opposed hemp, which they see as competition.
The new bill would allow states to craft their own policy.
Hemp, a cousin of marijuana that can't get you stoned, is considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to be a controlled substance because it kind of looks like pot.
The United States is the only nation that blocks its farmers from growing hemp, though hemp products are legal to import and to sell. Somebody would have to smoke several acres worth of hemp, which has negligible psychoactive properties, for that policy to make any sense.
Supporters of hemp, which is grown in every industrialized country except the United States, say farmers have a chance to capitalize on a potentially profitable plant if the federal government changes the rules. It would be much more sensible to allow farmers to grow a profitable crop rather then give them tax payer subsidies to grow something like corn.
Hemp oil is used in food and beauty products and fiber and cellulose in the plant's stalks can be used to make textiles, building materials and fuel.