Arizona makes a bold move that lays the foundation for the federal legalization of industrial hemp growth. On February 23, 2017, Senate Bill 1337 was passed. The bill language states that the “director may not prohibit or adopt a rule that prohibits a person from growing industrial hemp based on the legal status of industrial hemp under federal law.”
Arizona joins several other states, including Vermont, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts, in this push to grow and reap the economic benefits of commercialized hemp. Interesting to note that a 2005 Congressional Report found that the United States is the sole developed nation that has not developed industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity for food, bio-fuel, cosmetics, plastics, and more – an industry with a potential earning of $600 million or more.
The 2014 Farm Bill, signed by President Obama February 2014, lifted the ban on hemp farming for “research purposes” only, holding in place the ban on hemp farming for commercial purposes.
After a few amendments, Maine’s House and Senate passed the bill on to the governor, Republican Paul LePage, who vetoed it, citing the “legal risks for Maine’s farmers” because federal law has yet to exclude “industrial hemp from its definition of ‘marihuana’.”
However, the Maine legislature officially overrode the governor’s veto. The Maine House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to override the governor with a vote of 135 in favor to 6 against on Friday, June 12, 2015. The Maine Senate followed suit on Monday, June 15, 2015 with a vote of 27 in favor to 6 against.
Maine’s major industries include shipbuilding, fishing, tourism, and agriculture. The U.S. market for hemp is at least $600 million per year with over 25,000 uses for hemp including food, fabrics, cosmetics, plastics, and biofuel. U.S. is the number one importer of hemp in the world with Canada and China act as the leading exporters of hemp in the world. This law will greatly benefit Maine’s economy, not to mention that hemp is well suited for organic production as hemp can grow densely and control weeds.
The final version of LD#4 can be found here, and its terms will be effective state law 90 days from June 16, 2015.
I am cynically waiting to see whether the US Drug Enforcement Agency will use its resources and tax-funded budgets to prosecute Maine farmers for participation in the commercial hemp market.