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The House version of the farm bill certainly had a lot of bad (the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts) and a lot of ugly (drug testing SNAP recipients and workfare); however, there were some bits of good in it that I hope a future bill will include.  A great example from today was the passage of the hemp cultivation amendment introduced by Jared Polis (CO-02).

The amendment, co-sponsored by Democrat Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Republican Tom Massie (KY-04), would allow institutions of higher education to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for the purpose of agricultural or academic research in states that already permit industrial hemp growth and cultivation.  Seventeen states--including Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia, among others--have passed measures that either permit controlled cultivation or authorize research of industrial hemp. Those who seek to grow or research industrial hemp in these states face significant red tape from the Drug Enforcement Administration because the DEA classifies all cannabis plants as marijuana despite the fact that industrial hemp has a much lower THC content and, thus, lacks the psychoactive components of marijuana.

The United States is an outlier among industrialized nations in its policy on industrial hemp cultivation, and current policy also breaks with the country's history.  When the Puritans settled here, they brought hemp with them to cultivate, and the American colonies were, in fact, compelled by the British government to grow hemp.  In the early age of the American Republic, farmers were allowed to pay taxes with their hemp harvest, and past presidents like Washington and Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations.  Hemp was a key crop in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia throughout the 19th century.  In the 1930s, states began to regulate all cannabis as a drug; however, during World War II, the USDA had a Hemp for Victory campaign to encourage farmers to grow hemp for the war effort.  You can watch a video from the campaign here:

Why should the U.S. support hemp cultivation and research?  Here are some of the environmental benefits of industrial hemp:

Hemp seed is nutritious and contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is a good source of dietary fiber.

According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas.

Hemp can be grown organically. Only eight, out of about one hundred known pests, cause problems, and hemp is most often grown without herbicides, fungicides or pesticides. Hemp is also a natural weed suppressor due to the fast growth of the canopy.

Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp's low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally-friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products.

Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name a few examples. Over two million cars on the road today have hemp composite parts for door panels, dashboards, luggage racks, etc.

Industrial hemlp should appeal to environmentalists, nutrition advocates, farmers, and free marketeers, and the results of the vote largely reflected such an attraction.

The Polis amendment passed 225 to 200.  162 Democrats and 63 Republicans voted in favor, and 168 Republicans and 32 Democrats voted against.  As is always the case, it is most interesting to observe which members of Congress vote against the majority of their party.

Which 32 Democrats voted against hemp cultivation and research?

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Joyce Beatty (OH-03)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Tammy Duckworth (IL-08)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Sander Levin (MI-09)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Jim Matheson (UT-02)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Gregory Meeks (NY-05)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-05)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Charlie Rangel (NY-13)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
David Scott (GA-13)
Krysten Sinema (AZ-09)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Marc Veasey (TX-33)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)

And which 62 Republicans contributed to the victory for hemp?

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Spencer Bachus (AL-06)
Andy Barr (KY-06)
Dan Benishek (MI-01)
Kerry Bentivolio (MI-11)
Paul Broun (GA-10)
John Campbell (CA-45)
Jason Chaffetz (UT-03)
Mike Coffman (CO-06)
Kevin Cramer (ND)
John Culberson (TX-07)
Steve Daines (MT)
Rodney Davis (IL-13
Ron DeSantis (FL-06)
Sean Duffy (WI-07)
Renee Ellmers (NC-02)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)
Cory Gardner (CO-04)
Scott Garrett (NJ-05)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Trey Gowdy (SC-04)
Tom Graves (GA-14)
Morgan Griffith (VA-09)
Brett Guthrie (KY-02)
Richard Hanna (NY-22)
Andy Harris (MD-01)
Doc Hastings (WA-04)
Tim Huelskamp (KS-01)
Duncan Hunter (CA-50)
Robert Hurt (VA-05)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
John Kline (MN-02)
Raul Labrador (ID-01)
Cynthia Lummis (WY)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
Tom McClintock (CA-04)
Pat Meehan (PA-07)
Mick Mulvaney (SC-05)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
Tom Petri (WI-06)
Ted Poe (TX-02)
Trey Radel (FL-19)
Tom Reed (NY-23)
Reid Ribble (WI-08)
Tom Rice (SC-07)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Todd Rokita (IN-04)
Matt Salmon (AZ-05)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)
David Schweikert (AZ-06)
Chris Stewart (UT-02)
Steve Stivers (OH-15)
Steve Stockman (TX-36)
Marlin Stutzman (IN-03)
Scott Tipton (CO-03)
David Valadao (CA-21)
Greg Walden (OR-02)
Brad Wenstrup (OH-02)
Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)
Ed Whitfield (KY-01)
Rob Woodall (GA-07)
Young (AK)
Young (IN-09)

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) had introduced hemp legislation to the Senate farm bill, with the co-sponsorship of Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The amendment was never brought to a vote.  Wyden, however, remains optimistic about the potential of the legislation, making the following statement earlier today:

“I firmly believe that American farmers should not be denied an opportunity to grow and sell a legitimate crop simply because it resembles an illegal one.  I fought for an amendment that would have recognized industrial hemp as a legitimate crop, but since doing so requires amending the Controlled Substances Act it was considered non-germane to the current debate and could not be brought up for a vote.  Raising this issue has sparked a growing awareness of exactly how ridiculous the U.S.’s ban on industrial hemp is.  I’m confident that if grassroots support continues to grow and Members of Congress continue to hear from voters then common sense hemp legislation can move through Congress in the near future.”
Here's to hoping that the eventual farm bill marks a victory for hemp!

Originally posted to Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 08:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform and Community Spotlight.

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