Salem, OR: State lawmakers approved legislation this week that seeks to license farmers to cultivate hemp as an agricultural commodity. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana.
On Tuesday, House Representatives approved Senate Bill 676 by a vote of 46 to 11. Senators had previously endorsed the measure by a vote of 27 to 2.
The bill now awaits action by Democrat Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
As approved by the legislature, SB 676 authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to regulate the commercial production of cannabis containing levels of THC under 0.3 percent THC.
Democrat senator Floyd Prozansky, who sponsored the measure, said, "By passing SB 676 with strong bi-partisan support, the Oregon Legislature has taken a proactive position to allow its farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, to provide American manufacturers with domestically-grown hemp, and to profit from that effort."
A handful of states – including North Dakota, Montana, and Vermont – have enacted similar regulations to allow for the licensing of industrial hemp production under state law. However, such production remains criminally prohibited under federal law, which defines all varieties of cannabis as illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
In June, Maine lawmakers approved similar legislation, LD 1159, calling on the state to license farmers to grow hemp "contingent upon action by the federal government."
Legislation pending in Congress, HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009, seeks to amend federal law to allow for the state-licensed production of hemp, free from federal interference.
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, "The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500, or visit: http://www.votehemp.com.