Are barriers for hemp cultivation going down? New report documents industrial hemp legislative progress in US

Hemp, Vote Hemp, legislation

Last year saw the addition of four new ‘Hemp States’ (Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island), according to Vote Hemp’s 2016 States Report.

The report, which can be found HERE, documents state-by-state progress of hemp legislation passed in 2016, as well as the reported acreage of hemp grown, which is at 9,650 acres across 15 states. The report also identifies states with active hemp pilot farming programs.

“The goal of Vote Hemp is to pass federal legislation that will once again allow for state regulated commercial hemp farming and to reduce unnecessary regulations which are holding back investment in the industry,” Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We expect The Industrial Hemp Farming act to be reintroduced in the House and Senate soon and we will push for hearings in the 115th Congress,” he added.

Progress on hemp’s status in the US

Hemp food and personal care in US retail is estimated at $283 million, according to data from The Hemp Industries Association (HIA). Though it is perfectly legal to sell and consume foods and beverages containing hemp seeds in the US (which is the world's largest consumer of hemp products), the US is one of the only major industrialized countries that outlaws domestic hemp production.

In addition to adding four new hemp states (meaning states that have passed bills to allow at least some hemp cultivation), there were 29 hemp bills introduced throughout the nation, winning in nine of them—Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington—the Vote Hemp report revealed. 

While marijuana and hemp are distinct (the latter can’t get you high), outcomes from the November 2016 elections saw a majority of voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada passing marijuana legalization, even including a definition of hemp that may expand its cultivation in those states.

“Proposition 64 significantly expands what’s possible, it’s not just limited to university research anymore,” Steenstra said about California’s ballot’s impact on hemp.

Though Steenstra could only speak about California’s proposition—the HIA provided input during the Proposition 64’s drafting process—the clear distinction and definitions of hemp versus marijuana in both ballots is already a great victory point, he said: “It may allow for legislators to take a more careful look at hemp and where it falls.”

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