California Lawmakers Pushing for Legal Hemp

California lawmakers are moving forward with their second attempt in as many years to legalize hemp farming. The liberal-conservative odd couple of Assembly Members Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, have offered AB 684, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, to reauthorize and regulate agricultural production of the earth-friendly crop.

The bill would “clarify” the definition of marijuana to exclude industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive “agricultural field crop” containing no more than .3% tetrahydracannibinol, or THC. The bill specifically names the mature plant stalks, fiber, seed oil and cake, and sterilized seeds as hemp products distinct from marijuana – which, in essence, echoes the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals definition of non-narcotic hemp contained in a 2004 ruling that shot down a Drug Enforcement Agency attempt to ban the sale and consumption of all hemp seed and oil containing products – including, for example, shampoos, lotions, hemp burgers and chips. In other words, AB 684 uses the appellate court’s ruling as the definitive word – indeed, since the feds failed to appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is, in essence, law (at least that’s how the hempsters see it – five bucks says the DEA disagrees…any takers?).

Under AB 684, all hemp crops would need to be tested by a DEA-approved lab – akin to the THC testing the Canadian government requires for all its hemp crops – and any crop found to contain THC in excess of .3% would be destroyed. Leno submitted a similar bill last year, which passed but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because, he said, federal law failed to define hemp as a crop separate from pot.

Still, as the hemp product industry continues to grow – by about $26 million per year, for total revenues of some $270 million in 2005 – and voter support increases – the latest Zogby poll shows that 71% of Californians support the reauthorization of hemp farming – state lawmakers continue to jump on the train, singing the plant’s praises and chastising the idea that hemp and pot are indistinguishable. Indeed, in support of the California measure, Senate sponsor Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican from Thousand Oaks, opined that hemp is no more like pot than “poodles are like wolves.”

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Industrial Hemp, hemp, marijuana

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