A bill that would take Minnesota a step down the path toward the legalization of industrial hemp farming has now passed two House committee votes in two weeks. The hemp bill, HF 2168, would establish a process for licensing producers and distinguishes hemp from marijuana under state law, but any actual hemp planting would have to wait until approval by the DEA. There is no sign of that happening any time soon.
It was opposed by organizations representing Minnesota law enforcement. The Minnesota Peace/Police Officers Association's Bob Bushman told lawmakers he feared allowing industrial hemp farming would open the door to drug legalization in the state. He also complained that it would be burdensome on the state's crime labs, although it was unclear how.
It has been nearly a decade since the first hemp bill came to St. Paul. Several were introduced in 1999, only to fail in committee. The same thing happened in 2002. It looks like this year the bill will at least make it to the House floor.
If the bill were to become law, Minnesota would join seven other states -- Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia -- that have passed legislation removing barriers to its research or production.