Washington became a marijuana-friendly state when voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana. Now, the legislature is talking about making hemp farming legal as well.
Joy Maher shows off her hemp collection at the TVW office.
Two bills were discussed Thursday at the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that seek to create a licensing system for hemp growers governed by the Dept. of Agriculture.
While Senate Bill 6214 and Senate Bill 5964 are very similar, the first bill requires Washington State University to conduct a study of the net worth of industrial hemp production before licensing the crop. The cost of the study is estimated to be about $850,000.
Supporters of the hemp bill said that the crop is beneficial from an environmental and financial standpoint. The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6214, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said that it uses minimal pesticides and helps with erosion control.
She added that it is expected to cause an “explosive” boost in our state’s economy, citing that the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products in 2011.
Committee members raised concerns that marijuana could be concealed in hemp fields.
Aimee Warner, the founder of a cannabis beauty line, brought her "hemp" briefcase to the hearing.
However, testifiers in favor of hemp legalization assured that the plants do not only look different – marijuana is thick and bushy and hemp is tall and thin – but cross pollination would also significantly reduce the potency of the plant.
Joy Beckerman Maher, a longtime industrial hemp consultant, who has been pushing for legalization for decades addressed the myth that hemp can give someone a “high.”
“The only feeling you would get is an awful headache,” said Maher.
Hemp is used to make everything from clothing and beauty products to seed oil and ice cream. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was even written on hemp paper.
On a national scale, the Farm Bill recently allowed hemp cultivation projects to be launched for research and state agriculture department in 10 states that have approved hemp production. These include California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
No action was taken at the hearing. The Impact will air a special segment about the issue Wednesday.