HARRISBURG, PA — While sick Pennsylvanians anxiously await the outcome of an expected vote to legalize medical marijuana in the Pennsylvania House, lawmakers in the Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill to create an industrial hemp cultivation pilot program on Wednesday.
Members of the Senate voted 49-0 to approve Senate Bill 50, the Industrial Hemp Act. Over 20 states have adopted similar laws.
The bill, which authorizes instituions of higher education to conduct agricultural pilot programs in hemp cultivation research under guidelines issued by the federal government in 2014, now heads to the House for consideration
Hemp products are already legal in the United States, but only if the hemp is imported from the more than 30 countries that legally grow it. In 2014, members of Congress relaxed some federal restrictions on hemp cultivation by approving language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill that explicitly authorizes states to sponsor hemp research and pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant.
Hemp is a durable natural fiber, a nutritious food product for humans and pets, a superior building material, and has thousands of other known uses. A hemp crop needs half the water alfalfa uses, is a great rotation crop to use after legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil and it can be grown without heavy use of pesticides.
Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing. The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop on a large scale, according to the Congressional Resource Service.
Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
The majority of hemp sold in the United States is imported from China and Canada, the world’s largest exporters of the crop.
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