Bill to legalize cultivation of industrial hemp considered in Congress

Washington, D.C. – A bill overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate that now is being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives could remove hemp from the list of federally-banned controlled substances, plowing the way for the crop to be grown in Oregon and across the country.

That may sound confusing to some, considering the cultivation and sale of cannabis is legal in some form or another in 29 states and the District of Columbia — including since 1998 in Oregon when voters first approved the use of medicinal cannabis.

Let it be known that hemp is not the same crop as legal weed.

A brief deconstruction of hemp vs. cannabis

Industrial hemp is an agricultural crop used in skin products, clothing, dietary supplements, paper, textiles, fuel, CBD oil, and by various published accounts more than 25,000 other applications.

Hemp includes all varietals of the Cannabis plant that contain negligible amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in recreational and medicinal cannabis.

In other words, as a website called “The Ministry of Hemp” puts it, “Your lungs would fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp.”

It’s arguably comparable to the difference between nitrous oxide used by dentists to alleviate pain and nitrous oxide systems used in race-car engines.

As an agricultural crop, hemp is grown and marketed in at least 26 countries, including Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and Japan.

In the 1700s and 1800s, it was mandatory for U.S. farmers to grow hemp if they had the land, according to Farm Collector magazine, a trade publication dedicated to the preservation of vintage farm equipment.

Cannabis flowers are used recreationally but also in medicinal applications ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to pain and anxiety management.

The argument about cannabis’ true applicability as a medicine remains debatable to many because the U.S. government keeps the so-called “evil weed” on the list of federally-banned substances — equal to heroin and cocaine — and will not allow scientific research to be conducted in the U.S.

But we at the Gales Creek Journal digress.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018

In June, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 by a vote of 20-1 (Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was the lone “nay” vote).

The bill later passed the Senate and is championed on both sides of the aisle, with cheering lead by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

House Resolution 3530 (HR-3530) now awaits a vote by U.S. representatives, and if passed would still need to be signed into law by President Donald Trump. The president has not voiced his stance on the bill.

Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) issued a joint statement that says lifting the nonsensical ban on growing hemp in Oregon and nationwide reverses decades of policymaking that hurt farmers’ ability to innovate and grow jobs here at home.

“Our bipartisan legislation will help farmers unlock the full economic potential of industrial hemp, spurring economic growth and creating good-paying, red-white-and-blue jobs in rural communities across the country,” Wyden said. “Passing the Hemp Farm Act through the Senate … marks a huge step toward allowing consumers to buy products made with hemp grown in America.”

Merkley echoed Wyden’s sentiment, saying outdated policies should not stand in the way of Oregon farmers growing a crop that already is used to make products sold across the U.S. by internationally-based companies.

“With this farm bill we are moving Oregon farmers into the 21st century (by) allowing industrial hemp to meet its potential to create jobs and strengthen the agriculture industry, as well as jump starting the long-overdue process of reforming the Controlled Substances Act (of 1970),” Merkley said.

Sen. McConnell said it was time the U.S. took this step.

“I think everybody has figured it out that this isn’t that other plant,” he said.

Oregon’s lone Republican representative, Greg Walden, also voted in favor of the bill but did not provides a statement.

Hemp possibilities in Oregon

The trade magazine Hemp Industry Daily says Oregon is positioned to become a national hemp-crop leader due to a law the became effective in 2017 that requires future hemp growers to test their products as rigorously as cannabis growers, meaning hemp products are required to be food-grade quality — free of harmful contaminants and pesticides.

Oregon requires hemp growers to be licensed to process hemp at an annual cost of $1,300. Additionally, the state requires hemp growers to purchase a permit for producing viable hemp seed that costs $120 per year.

Oregon does not require a background check for hemp processors or growers.

For more information about obtaining an Oregon industrial hemp license go online to:
https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/NurseryChristmasTree/Pages/Hemp.aspx

To view the full text of the bill, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3530/text?format=txt.

To view a technical breakdown of definitions and existing regulations regarding growing industrial hemp in the US, visit
https://bit.ly/2JyIk9l

Daniel Pearson

Daniel Pearson holds a bachelors in journalism and an MBA in marketing. He’s a 10-time, Oregon SPJ award-winning journalist, a two-time winner of an ADDY (advertising) for copywriting, and a one-time award winner for fiction for the NW Coastal Writer’s Series. Email: daniel@bankspost.com Twitter: @rosecitywriting