AB 1147, the California hemp bill sponsored by San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno (D), has conquered another hurdle. The bill, which would permit California farmers to grow industrial hemp to produce hemp oil, seed, and fiber to sell to domestic and foreign manufacturers, passed the state Senate Public Safety Committee June 20 on a 4-2 vote.
"California farmers are missing out on a multimillion dollar market that already exists in California," said Leno in a statement. "Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries. This measure will allow California to lead the way in tapping into a $270 million industry that's growing by $26 million each year."
Under current US law, it is legal to produce and sell industrial hemp products, but it is illegal to grow it here because the federal government has successfully argued that the hemp plant is under the purview of the Controlled Substances Act. Still, seven states -- Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia -- have changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes.
The California bill was introduced in February 2005, and after a circuitous and torturous process passed the Assembly in January 2006. In the Senate, the bill now moves to the Rules and/or Agriculture committees before heading for a possibly floor vote.
In a bid to undermine federal intervention, the bill "would require industrial hemp to be cultivated only from seeds imported in accordance with federal law or from seeds grown in California, as specified" and would not authorize "the transportation or sale across state borders of seed or any variety of Cannabis sativa L. that is capable of germination." It also sets an upper permissible THC limit of 0.3% and requires laboratory tests of the crop to verify it.
The hemp bill has the backing of businesses selling hemp products and Vote Hemp, an industry organization, as well as farmers who can see dollar signs. "Industrial hemp is a bipartisan agricultural issue whose time has come," said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido, which imports hemp seed and oil from Canada and Europe for their soaps and snack bars, as he greeted an earlier vote on the bill. "We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars importing industrial hemp, so we think it is time to give California farmers a chance to grow it for us," added Bronner, who sits on the Vote Hemp board.