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Bipartisan Bill Challenges U.S. Hemp Laws

As of this writing U.S. industrial users of hemp have no choice but to import it from other countries.

As of this writing U.S. industrial users of hemp have no choice but to import it from other countries.

Hemp as a legal issue has a long history in the United States. In fact, the first laws governing hemp were passed in 1619, over a hundred years before most of our country’s Founding Fathers were even born – and guess what? They were laws requiring farmers to grow hemp!

That’s right – hemp was so important to the economy that any farmer who refused to grow it risked jail time or even banishment from the colonies!

It may not hold the same value that it did back in the seventeenth century, but hemp is still the center of legal controversy. For over 80 years, cultivation of industrial hemp has been illegal in the U.S. as part of the government’s war against drugs.

Opposition to this law has been steadily gaining strength over the last decade. At first many if not most of those calling for the return of industrial hemp belonged to the “legalize marijuana” camp. But more and more, they are being joined by others who recognize the economic and environmental benefits of this versatile plant.

Currently, all hemp used for manufacture in this country has to be imported from other countries such as Canada and China. The growing demand for hemp represents a significant market that could help boost a sagging U.S. economy and provide more jobs and income for farmers and other workers in the industry. In addition, hemp’s hardiness and ability to thrive without excessive use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers makes it a natural choice for farmers and consumers concerned about preserving soil and farmland quality.

So far, sixteen states have passed laws legalizing the production of industrial hemp. North Dakota has gone so far as to issue growing licenses to farmers in the state. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam still considers growing hemp to be a criminal offense. Even where hemp production is legal, hemp growers still face criminal prosecution under federal law – risking fines, jail time and even seizure of property.

The scene could change in the near future. HR1866, “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009,” was introduced to Congress on April 3, 2009. The bill, introduced by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX), proposes to lift federal restrictions on growing industrial hemp. HR1866 is enjoying bipartisan support.

Ron Paul’s statement introducing HR1866 Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 can be read at RonPaul.com.

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