A bill that would allow California farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp passed the Assembly May 10 and now heads to the state Senate, where it is also expected to pass. A similar bill passed the legislature last year, only to be vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), AB 684 would pave the way for California farmers to eventually -- not immediately -- grow the plant, which is used to make food, clothing, paper, body care, bio-fuel, and auto products. If the bill were to be signed into law, industry organizations like Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association, as well as the California Certified Organic Farmers, have vowed to challenge the federal ban on hemp planting.
Schwarzenegger cited the federal ban when he vetoed last year's hemp bill. He claimed it would put farmers in jeopardy of federal prosecution. But proponents of this year's bill are hopeful the governor will relent.
"Passage of the hemp farming bill in the Assembly is a sign it is likely to reach Governor Schwarzenegger's desk for the second year in row," said Vote Hemp legal counsel and San Francisco Attorney Patrick Goggin. "The mood in Sacramento is this bill is consistent with California's effort to be leader on US environmental policy. Hemp is a versatile plant that can replace polluting crops such as cotton and is taking off as an organic food and body care ingredient. It is time to jump into the expanding market for hemp that California companies currently import from Canada and elsewhere."
American hemp product manufacturers currently have to import their raw material from China, Canada, or one of the more than 30 other countries that allow hemp production. It is the only crop that is illegal to grow in the US, but legal to import.