Record Number Of State Legislatures To Decide On Industrial Hemp In 1997

At least ten state legislatures will decide on measures pertaining to the cultivation of industrial hemp in 1997, the largest number since hemp was made illegal by the federal government in 1937 under the Marihuana Tax Act.

“Domestic sales of imported hemp products raked in approximately $25 million dollars in sales in 1994 alone and the American Farm Bureau now calls hemp ‘one of the most promising crops in half a century,'” said NORML’s Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. “The explosion of industrial hemp legislation at the state level is a direct result of growing awareness among legislators and the public that this is a viable crop for American farmers.”

Presently, legislators have introduced industrial hemp legislation in at least six states: Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Virginia. While some of these measures simply mandate state-run committees to study the economic benefits of, and barriers to, production of industrial hemp, other more progressive bills allow for test plots of hemp to be cultivated for research purposes.

“The state of Hawaii needs to act now and plant test plots of industrial cannabis hemp so that it — and not its competitors — will be in the position to establish important business ties with the manufacturers of hemp-based fiber, pulp, paper, oil, paints, sealants, fuel and food,” states legislation introduced in Hawaii by Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailau Kameohe), one of three state bills introduced to allow for domestic cultivation.

According to former Colorado Senator and hemp advocate Lloyd Casey, representatives and senators in at least six additional states “range from 75 percent to 95 percent” sure that they will also introduce industrial hemp legislation in 1997. These states are: Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

“Industrial hemp provides a window of opportunity for U.S. agriculture producers to take advantage of a highly profitable fiber crop [with] many uses …,” wrote Bob Winter in the June 17, 1996 edition of Farm Bureau News — the weekly newspaper of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “International trade agreements (e.g., GATT and NAFTA) recognize the designation of 0.3 percent … THC as the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. [Yet,] current U.S. law[s] do not differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Thanks to these laws, … U.S. farmers are prohibited from growing a highly profitable crop without government subsidy.”

Often described as marijuana’s misunderstood cousin, industrial hemp is from the same plant species (Cannabis sativa) that produces marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp has only minute amounts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its euphoric and medicinal properties. Currently most of Europe and Asia grow hemp for industrial purposes. Both Australia and Canada engage in hemp cultivation for research purposes.

For more information, please contact NORML Kriho of the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) at (303) 784-5632 or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. Lloyd Casey may be contacted via e-mail at: For updates on state hemp legislation, please check out NORML’s website @: or e-mail CO-HIP at: Copies of NORML’s position paper: Can America Afford Not To Grow This Plant? are available upon request.