'Very enthusiastic'Steven Auerbach, executive director of the Cannabis Growers Association of Pennsylvania, said the private sector is “very enthusiastic” about the Senate bill.A lawyer, Auerbach said the bill would regulate hemp as an agricultural commodity, one that has more than 25,000 uses. The limestone-rich soil in which hemp grows best is “found heavily in Lancaster County,” he added.
The bill also would create a five-member Industrial Hemp Licensing Board that would be established within the Department of Agriculture.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 states have statutes establishing commercial industrial hemp programs. Another seven states have passed laws establishing industrial hemp programs that are limited to agricultural or academic research purposes.
The history of hemp
The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of hemp products but is the only major industrialized country that outlaws domestic hemp production.
Hemp has a long history in America, and supporters like to point out that Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson grew the plant. U.S. industrial hemp production peaked in 1943, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, with more than 150 million pounds from 146,200 harvested acres.
But production disappeared by the late 1950s as a result of “anti-drug sentiment and competition from synthetic fibers,” according to The Associated Press.
Hemp producers import seeds to produce a variety of goods. Canada is the main supplier of hemp seed products to the United States.
The movement to restore industrial hemp production is moving forward at the federal level as well. Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the House to put an end to the federal ban on hemp production in the United States.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana and would allow American farmers in any state to grow the crop.