Published: Feb. 5, 2014 Updated: 12:33 p.m.
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Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an industrial-hemp bill in 2011 because he saw a potential conflict with federal law. He signed the 2013 hemp legislation because it requires a change in federal policy before California hemp farming could begin.
WASHINGTON – Congress “took a step in the right direction” Tuesday by allowing universities and state agricultural departments in certain states, including California, to grow and study hemp, said California Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa. He was referring to a provision in the farm bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday.
Mansoor was the principal co-author of a bill legalizing industrial hemp cultivation in California that the state Legislature approved last September. The legislation, though, stipulated that farmers couldn’t begin growing hemp in California until the federal government approved the practice.
“It makes absolutely no sense when we could grow it here and grow our economy at the same time,” Mansoor said Monday evening.
Currently, hemp products can be sold and produced in California, but the hemp needs to be grown elsewhere. Roughly $500 million in hemp products were sold in state during 2012, according to Mansoor’s office and published reports.
Hemp is a fiber from the same plant that produces marijuana; hemp is used to make cloth, lotions and some food items. Marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, a drug the government believes has high potential for abuse, under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The new legislation amends the 1970 law and would allow states that have legalized industrial hemp farming to grow the plant at universities and state agriculture departments for research purposes.
David Tobias, former president of Hemp Inc., said Congress’ action could be the start of a “resurgence” that would cut back on hemp imports from major producers such as China and Canada.
Law enforcement efforts shouldn’t be affected by the new federal legislation, John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers Association, said.
The association initially had expressed concerns about the state law, but withdrew its opposition after it became clear the state would allow hemp to be grown only in registered areas, subject to inspection. BY ELIZABETH HELD
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