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California Hemp Gets Rolling
The 2014 federal farm bill coupled with
state legislation passed last year means that industrial hemp
might be growing in the Golden State soon. But it won't be completely
By David Downs - East Bay Express -
July 2, 2014
Green, twenty-foot-tall fields of research
hemp might be waving in the Davis breeze by the next year in
a startling breakthrough for California hemp advocates who have
been working for decades to grow the plant.
The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 combined with
the 2014 federal farm bill has unlocked the possibility of legally
growing the ancient food, fuel, and fiber crop. "It's remarkable.
I'm quite thrilled," said longtime San Francisco hemp lawyer
Patrick Goggin. "We had no idea it would come this fast,
to be honest."
Championed by state Senator Mark Leno of
San Francisco, the California Hemp Act of 2013 authorized hemp
farming in California, but only if the federal government allowed
it. When the bill passed last year, it seemed likely that hell
would freeze over before the feds would ever legalize hemp farming.
The federal government banned hemp along with its cousin marijuana
in the Thirties, even though the plants differ in a number of
key ways. Hemp, for example, has less than 1 percent THC, the
psychoactive molecule in cannabis. Modern marijuana, by contrast,
can contain 15 to 22 percent THC. But law enforcement officials
have nonetheless fought to keep hemp illegal, arguing that cops
can't tell the difference between hemp and pot.
But then on February 7, hell froze over.
A far-left-far-right contingent in Congress added an amendment
to the massive US farm bill exempting research hemp from the
federal Drug War if states also allowed hemp. California Senator
Dianne Feinstein, a centrist and a longtime opponent of marijuana,
opposed the amendment. But "she lost big time," Goggin
Far-right Republican Senators like Mitch
McConnell and Rand Paul voted for the measure. "Hemp has
strange bedfellows," said Goggin. "I call it a wraparound
coalition - you have a far-left and far-right and their interests
do coincide on some issues and hemp is one of them. It's very
symbolic of these types of coalitions."
When President Barack Obama signed the
farm bill - known as the Agricultural Act of 2014 - on February
7, it activated existing-but-dormant laws that allowed for the
growing of hemp in about a dozen states. (Washington and Colorado
straight-up legalized hemp in defiance of federal law when they
passed adult-use marijuana legalization in 2012.)
Then on June 6, California Attorney General
Kamala Harris issued a legal opinion on what the federal farm
bill meant for Leno's California Industrial Hemp Act. "[W]e
conclude that federal law authorizes, and the Hemp Act permits,
institutions of higher education and the CDFA [California Department
of Food and Agriculture] to grow and cultivate industrial hemp
for purposes of agricultural or academic research," the
Goggin said the law requires CDFA to draft
rules for research hemp pilot programs at colleges and universities.
A hemp board is to be impaneled. County agricultural commissioners
also will have to agree to participate. It could take "six
months or eighteen months" to get hemp rules done at the
CDFA, according to Goggin. "More than likely eighteen months."
"They are eager to move forward on
this, but it is a matter of, 'Okay, where are we going to get
the funding for it?'" Goggin continued. "We're dealing
with a state the size of a big country relative to the rest of
In an interview, Leno said California needs to snap out of it,
straight-up legalize commercial hemp, let farmers grow it, and
create jobs and revenue now. A CDFA research program could cost
the state $20 million. The veteran legislator is irritated that
legalizing hemp is still an issue.
Thirty nations grow hemp and it's found
in thousands of consumer products - from Converse sneakers to
BMW interior panels. "It's apparently only illegal when
it's growing in the ground," Leno said. "Every one
of our Western trading partners, plus China, grows it today.
What do we need to spend millions of research dollars to find
"It still grows wild in California:
It's known as 'ditch weed,'" he continued. "This is
irrational and that's been my point for ten years."
Leno said the state should ask US Attorney
General Eric Holder to confirm that the Justice Department's
hands-off approach to legal marijuana also applies to non-psychoactive
hemp. But even if Holder did so, California farmers wouldn't
be able to get a hemp-growing permit. The CDFA hasn't created
Leno said additional hemp legalization measures won't be passed
this year in the state legislature. As a result, California voters
are going to have to step up and legalize hemp as a part of adult-use
marijuana legalization in the 2016 election.
As for Feinstein's claims that police can't
distinguish between hemp and a drug crop of marijuana, "I
don't know that [Feinstein] has ever seen a hemp field,"
Leno said. "Hemp grows to over twenty feet in height. Marijuana
doesn't grow much taller than twelve feet. ... Hemp is planted
in rows six inches apart like bamboo. ... They look like bamboo
fields. It's grown so densely. Marijuana is grown in rows four
feet apart. ... How could they not tell the difference? ... It's
a false argument, and it always was.
"Hemp never was and never will be
a drug, so it's unfortunate that in the last sixty years it has
been confused with one," he continued. "It was never
confused before, and it shouldn't continue to be confused. ...
It's only our country that is confused. There are no European
countries that are confused. Canada is not confused. Mexico is
not confused. China is not confused.
"Why can California farmers - especially
in a time of drought, when they are desperate for a good, safe,
drought-resistant cash-crop - be denied the benefit of a national
legal hemp trade? We should be growing it."
legalized in California
By Reed Nelson - San Francisco Bay Guardian
After being stuck in legislative limbo
for 14 years, industrial hemp will soon be a legally sanctioned
agricultural crop in the state of California.
The California Industrial Hemp Farming
Act (SB 566) was signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown,
after years of deliberation dating back to 1999, a process that
included multiple gubernatorial vetoes. The freshly signed law
will allow approved California residents to grow hemp for industrial
purposes by reclassifying the once-felonious plant as a "fiber
or oilseed crop."
SB 566, a bill championed since 2005 by
Sen. Mark Leno (D), defines industrial hemp as the "nonpsychoactive
types of the plant Cannabis saliva L. and the seed produced therefrom,
having no more than 3/10 of 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) contained in the dried flowering tops."
In simpler terms: It doesn't protect marijuana,
but rather marijuana's less mind-bending cousin, which is far
more useful as a raw industrial material.
"We are very pleased to have the signature,"
Sen. Leno told the Guardian. "It's been a 10-year effort
to get here. It's a job still, but [the passing of SB 566] will
help sustain family farms in California for the future and likely
create more job opportunities. Hemp is a $500 million a year
industry in California, and it's growing at 10 percent annually."
California now follows in the footsteps
of nine other states and 30 other countries that have reclassified
the innocuous plant as a crop with agricultural and commercial
value. And it is quite valuable.
"This is a miracle plant that has
served the planet earth well for, literally, millennia, and that
we currently legally manufacture and sell thousands of hemp products
including food, clothing, shelter, paper, fuel, all biodegradable
products," said Leno. "It's renewable every 90 days,
grows without herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, and needs
less water than corn. It is the definition of sustainability."
But the reputation of hemp hasn't always
had champions like Sen. Leno. Since the initial proposal of HR
32 back in 1999, the bill has been vetoed four times by three
different governors. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cited
a "false sense of security" he feared would be cultivated
amongst the growers of the crop, due to its illegality at a federal
Gov. Brown had previously shot down the
proposed legislation in 2011, citing a gap in state and federal
law as the reason. However, he did remark in his veto message
at the time that "it is absurd that hemp is being imported
into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it."
And it would seem that Brown's recognition
of hemp's merits finally outweighed his concern over the potential
for California growers to face federal prosecution, which is
a major relief for the architects of SB 566. Now Californians
can stop relying on imported hemp from Mexico and Canada (among
other places) and start legally manufacturing their own.
"We currently manufacture literally
thousands of [hemp] products - legally - and sell them,"
said Leno. "This is why this issue has been so nonsensical."
The "nonsensical" issue has had
deep roots, given hemp's historically ambiguous federal standing.
As Brown's 2011 veto message noted, "federal law clearly
establishes that all cannabis plants, including industrial hemp,
are marijuana, which is a federally regulated controlled substance."
But that isn't a universally held assertion.
Back in 1970, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the
federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 "explicitly excludes
nonpsychoactive hemp from the definition of marijuana,"
a decision that the federal government never appealed. It's a
decision that Sen. Leno agrees with.
"We've always believed that there
is no federal preemption, because we believe that that court
case ruled that Congress had knowingly exempted industrial hemp
from the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 -because it's not
a drug," said Leno.
Now the state of California can do what
more than 30 countries (including Canada, Great Britain, France,
Germany and China) and nine states are already doing: Cultivating
and processing a plant that many have touted as the "miracle
Now that SB 566 has passed, however, the
looming question still remains as to how the federal government
will respond. But Leno is confident that it will respect the
will of California lawmakers.
"I have great confidence in a recent
statement by Attorney General Eric Holder," said Leno. "He's
said that if a state puts into place a legal allowance and regulatory
scheme, that the federal government would not interfere with
marijuana. Now, we need clarification between hemp and marijuana,
but there's no sensical way that that could be interpreted that
hemp is excluded, given that hemp's not a drug."
Either way, hemp is on the horizon here
HEMP IS NOT MARIJUANA
Industrial hemp is a crop that is grown
and processed throughout the world for paper, clothing, canvas,
rope, food products and many other commercial uses. It has no
psychoactive properties in any part of the plant, is cultivated
as an agricultural field crop, and grows as a stalk to a height
of 12 to 16 feet.
Although both are the same species, cannabis
sativa, industrial hemp and marijuana are grown differently and
have a different appearance. Marijuana is a tropical variety
of cannabis that grows to a height of 6 feet and is carefully
tended as a horticultural plant. It has been cultivated to grow
as a bush with many branches and leaves to maximize the number
of flowers where THC potency is the strongest.
Hemp has an appearance similar to bamboo
and has few branches and leaves. Unlike marijuana, hemp leaves
tend to cluster at the crown of the plant. The most important
distinction is that hemp has less than three tenths of one percent
THC while marijuana contains five to 25 percent THC.
Industrial hemp stalks grow similar to bamboo.
25,000 PRODUCTS CAN BE MADE FROM INDUSTRIAL
Hemp is used by the automobile industry
as reinforcement fiber in "biocomposites" - press-molded
or injection molded parts used in doors panels, boot liners etc.,
where they are replacing fiberglass composites or more expensive
Hemp is used in foods such as bread, energy
bars, waffles, granola, coffee, beer, veggie burgers, pretzels,
salad dressings, and many food products. Hemp seed oil is an
excellent replacement for unhealthy fats in foods due to its
excellent balance of the essential fatty acids linoleic acid
(omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Consuming the right
balance of essential fatty acids found in hemp seed oil offers
significant health benefits, including an improved HDL/LDL cholesterol
ratio, reducing the symptoms of dermatitis, of rheumatoid arthritis
and other inflammatory diseases, as well as improving and optimizing
development in infants.
Hemp is used in body care products such
as lotions, lip balms, conditioners, shampoos, and soaps. It
also may be used as biofuel in the production of ethanol, a plant
based gasoline additive and replacement.
Brochure on the benefits of industrial
INDUSTRIAL HEMP IN CALIFORNIA
Hemp is already a market commodity. According
to a study commissioned by the Hemp Industries Association, the
annual United States retail market for hemp products has grown
steadily since 1990 to approximately $400 million in 2009, increasing
at a rate of about $26 million annually.
The hemp products industry is particularly
strong in the Golden State, where 77 percent of U.S. sales of
hemp food and personal care products are earned by California
companies. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, for instance, is a California
business based in Escondido that is the number one producer of
natural soap in the world, selling about $20 million worth of
soap annually. In the last five years Dr. Bronner's spent $800,000
importing hemp oil from Canada.
More on Dr. Bronner's hemp products:
Dr. Bronners is just one of the many California
businesses that could support local farmers in growing hemp with
the passage of this bill by purchasing from Californian rather
than Canadian farmers.
Consumers are benefiting from healthy industrial
hemp products and manufacturers are enjoying a rapidly growing
market. The only ones not benefiting from industrial hemp are
The Canadian industrial hemp crop is limited
by a short growing season, dependency on rainfall, and cooler
temperatures. California's warm climate and use of irrigation
would enable hemp farmers to achieve significantly higher seed
and fiber yields than in Canada.
Good for Agriculture & Good for
In addition to economic benefits, hemp
has strong agricultural benefits as well. It requires little
or no pesticides and herbicides and improves soil conditions
making it an excellent rotational crop of particular interest
to organic farmers.
Hemp's dense growth smothers out competing
plants and delivers a field ready for the next rotation that
is virtually free of weeds. This is particularly helpful in rotation
with weeding-intensive crops like strawberries. The positive
role hemp plays in sustainable crop rotations reduces chemical
use and saves farmers money.
Industrial hemp has many environmental
benefits. It is a source for paper, building insulation, and
fiber board. As our demand for wood products grows we could save
our trees for higher-end uses such as lumber, and supplement
paper and fiber board production with hemp. An acre of hemp produces
2 to 4 times more fiber than an acre of timber and it grows from
seeding to maturity in just 90 days. Hemp also can be used as
a raw material for ethanol fuel and is particularly promising
for emerging cellulostic ethanol technologies due to its rapid
HEMP NOT NEW TO THE UNITED STATES OR
Industrial hemp has a long history of commercial
use and cultivation in California and the United States. In colonial
Virginia and Connecticut the cultivation of hemp was mandatory
for farmers. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew
hemp on their plantations. As recently as World War II the U.S.
government encouraged farmers to grow hemp in the "Hemp
for Victory" campaign to supply cordage for the war effort.
World War II era U.S. government poster
From around 1900 to 1920 hemp was grown
as a commercial crop in California. Some areas known for hemp
cultivation were Gridley in Butte County, Courtland in the lower
Sacramento Valley, Rio Vista in Solano County, and Lerdo near
The 1903 USDA Yearbook shows industrial hemp grown
in Gridley, CA that was well over 10 feet tall.
HEMP AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was passed in
the U.S. Congress with promises in the floor debates that it
would not prohibit the production of non-psychoactive industrial
hemp. The crop continued to be grown in the United States until
the mid-1950s when soft markets and increasing government harassment
made other crops more desirable.
Today, the 1970 Controlled Substances Act
is the federal statute that regulates industrial hemp. The 1937
definition for marijuana was lifted from the existing statute
and adopted with no debate on the language excluding sterilized
hemp seed, hemp fiber, and hemp seed oil from regulation. Therefore,
the U.S. Congress never voted to make the cultivation of industrial
hemp illegal. In 1970 there were imported hemp products in the
marketplace such as canvas and rope, but no hemp farmers left
to ensure that cultivation was appropriately addressed.
Processed hemp is now sold in the United
States for paper, cloth, canvas, rope, food products, soaps,
body care products, biocomposite materials and many industrial
commercial uses. However, all hemp used in the United States
The federal DEA tried to classified industrial
hemp as a controlled substance by regulation. However, in 2004
the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the DEA did not have
the authority to regulate hemp under the 1970 Controlled Substances
Act since hemp seed, fiber, and oil are excluded. The DEA dropped
its appeal of that decision and the 9th Circuit Court ruling
now stands as U.S. law on the issue.
Web PDF Link: United
States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit Ruling in Hemp Industries
NO CONFLICT WITH FEDERAL LAW
Under SB 767 only the excluded, non-federally-regulated
parts of the plant would enter commerce of any kind, whether
in-state or interstate, except for an in-state market for viable
hemp planting seed for which there is no national market. For
that reason, the U.S. Supreme Court's medical marijuana decision
in Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) does not in any way suggest
a pre-emption problem with SB 676.
In Raich the Court reasoned that the interstate
market for marijuana would exert a "pull" on in-state
medical marijuana because the commodities were fungible. However,
this reasoning cannot be applied to the cultivation of industrial
hemp authorized by SB 676 because:
1. Only non-regulated parts of the plant
would enter interstate commerce, and
2. No part of the non-psychoactive industrial hemp plant, including
the flowers and seeds, is fungible in the interstate market for
Because industrial hemp can't get you high,
there is no interstate "pull" that could divert non-psychoactive
industrial hemp plants, flowers, or seeds as they are useless
in the illegal interstate market for marijuana.
HEMP CAN'T BE USED TO DISGUISE MARIJUANA
Hemp cannot be used to disguise marijuana
for many reasons. Hemp grows densely and the shade works effectively
as a smother crop not only for weeds, but marijuana, which needs
lots of sunlight. Marijuana plants grow, flower and mature later
than hemp and would be overtaken and shaded out if planted in
a field of hemp.
Cross pollination by industrial hemp pollen
would result in seed production in the marijuana flowers. This
makes them not sellable as an illegal drug. The flowering tops
are the harvested part of the marijuana plant and flowering is
reduced once the plant has been pollinated.
To avoid seeding, reduced flowering, and
less THC production, illegal marijuana growers destroy male plants
before they can pollinate the females and render their product
not smokable. Blowing hemp pollen would result in particularly
heavy seed production in a marijuana grove.
Finally, if marijuana plants have been
cross-pollinated by hemp, the resulting seeds would produce,
in the next generation, plants of uncertain and generally lower
THC drug potency.
Thus, there is no logical reason for growing
hemp alongside marijuana. The pollination of marijuana plants
by male hemp plants reduces the amount of flowers, the amount
of THC containing resin produced per flower, and results in the
production of undesirable seeds - all of which impairs the commercial
value of a marijuana plant.
The last thing a clandestine marijuana
grower wants is a field of industrial hemp shading out and smothering
marijuana plants, blowing pollen that will produce seeds in marijuana
flowers, and reducing the potency of their next crop.
MOVEMENT TO BRING BACK INDUSTRIAL HEMP
Industrial Hemp is currently legal to grow
in more than 30 countries including Canada, Germany, England,
France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the Russian Federation,
China, Hungary and Romania.
California is one of fifteen states (the
others are Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland,
Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, North Carolina,
Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia) that have passed pro-hemp
laws or resolutions. An additional thirteen states have considered
pro-hemp legislation or resolutions.
The Farm Bureaus in Ohio and Pennsylvania
have advocated for a return to industrial hemp farming. However,
North Dakota is in the lead among U.S. states with a law and
regulations in place that puts them on track to become the first
U.S. state to grow industrial hemp.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP PRODUCTION MAKES SENSE
Among the more than 300 member companies
of the Hemp Industries Association, 46 of them are based right
here in California. These companies are importing or buying a
Canadian product that can be easily grown in California. Nutiva,
an organic food company based in Sebastopol, CA believes they
can save more than $100,000 per year in transportation costs
if they could buy hemp seeds from California farmers.
More on The Hemp Industries Association:
More on Nutiva's hemp products:
With so many hemp product manufacturers
based in California and with a large number of acres planted
in crops that could benefit in rotation with hemp, this region
is particularly well-suited industrial hemp cultivation. The
California Industrial Hemp Farming Act makes sense for California
farmers, businesses, and consumers.
* Links to commercial websites are intended
for demonstration purposes and do not constitute an official
endorsement of companies or their products.
Senate Agriculture Committee
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