Hemp had a great news day today with two great article in the paper.
First is and op-ed from our board member and hemp historian, Les Stark in the Reading Eagle.
At one time dozens of hemp mills processed the local crop in all parts of the county, and rope was manufactured in the Jackson Rope plant in Reading.
One might ask, “Are we any closer today to passing industrial hemp legislation?”
The answer is yes, we are very close.
There are two bills currently waiting floor votes in the Pennsylvania General Assembly: Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 967. Both bills were introduced with bipartisan support into their respective Agricultural and Rural Affairs committees, and in May the issue received a bicameral hearing. In October, both committees voted unanimously to send the bills to the floor for a vote.
Both bills attempt to align Pennsylvania law with current federal law. The federal farm bill passed in 2014 contains Section 7606, which allows farmers to grow hemp if affiliated with a university research program or licensed by their state Department of Agriculture, provided they live in states that have passed pro-hemp legislation.
Currently, 27 states have passed laws that align with Section 7606 and allow their farmers to grow hemp.
Kentucky cultivated 3,000 acres of hemp last year and is entering its third season for growing the crop.
Colorado will be entering its fourth year of cultivating industrial hemp and will put in another several thousand acres.
A half dozen states in all grew hemp last year, and this year it is expected to be grown in a dozen states, including New York. If we can pass hemp legislation right now, we may be able to get seeds in the ground this spring. A delay will force us to wait an entire year while our competitors take the lead.
As a board member of the newly created Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, I talked to hundreds of people this year at the 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. It was the organization’s debut event. The mission of the PaHIC is to get the legislation over the finish line and then to match up interested farmers with industries that can make use of the seed, stalk, fiber and cellulose material of the hemp plant.
Overall we talked to thousands of people, and what we found out was that there is much excitement about industrial hemp in Pennsylvania. No surprise there, for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau passed a pro-hemp resolution all the way back in 2000.
Farmers across the state are ready to go, and we have industry ready to commit to buying crops of hemp right off the bat.
We’ve been talking about hemp in Pennsylvania for a long time but never has there been this much excitement. We are so close now that we can feel it: the birth of a new billion- dollar industry in the commonwealth.
In Pennsylvania we will use hemp for flooring products, composite materials, plastics, paper, Hempcrete building materials, food products for human consumption, livestock and poultry feed, horse bedding, biofuels, land remediation, cover crops, auto parts and many other exciting applications.
We have everything going for us in Pennsylvania: a rich history of hemp production, an innovative agricultural industry, some of the best soil on Earth and close proximity to all major markets on the East Coast. With those kinds of advantages, Pennsylvania is positioned to not just participate but to lead in the new emerging American hemp industry.
All we are waiting on is for the industrial hemp bills to be scheduled for votes on the floor of the state Capitol. If it’s voted on, we are positive a hemp bill will pass and be signed into law. This will be a positive step for the entire state and will create jobs, protect the environment and help agriculture.
That’s what’s called a win-win-win.
The General Assembly should act now
Next is an article featuring our champion in the State Senate, Judy Schwank, from the Daily Review.
The push continues to bring hemp to Pennsylvania.
Senator Judy Schwank of the 11th district is one of the legislators pushing for Bill 50, which hopes to legalize the industrialized growth of hemp.
As far as Schwank is concerned, there is no legitimate argument against hemp itself.
“I look at it more as a misunderstanding about the nature of the crop,” she said. “Hemp and marijuana, while of the same Cannabis family are not the same strain. A good analogy is the difference between field corn and sweet corn.”
Schwank said that hemp is distinguished by having .03 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psycho active element that gives recreational or medical marijuana its potency.
“You could smoke 10 acres of hemp and not get high,” she said.
Schwank said hemp has many uses, with many states already running pilot projects and research on crops up and running.
She said Pennsylvania has an advantage over other states, as the soil and climate make it perfect for growing hemp.
She said, historically, it was colonial Pennsylvania that started growing hemp. She said towns such as Hempfield Township in Lancaster take their names from the historical crop.
Schwank said currently the bill is awaiting consideration on the Senate calendar.
“It has gone through the committee process, passing both the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Committee,” she said. “The next step, hopefully, is consideration by the full Senate body.”