Pa. committee approves industrial hemp bill

Industrial hemp cultivation in France Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A House committee has unanimously approved legislation that could lead the way to reestablishing the industrial hemp industry in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 967 was voted out of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and sent to the House floor.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) would create a pilot program for industrial hemp research by university researchers and other programs administered by the Department of Agriculture.

“There’s an enormous amount of confusion and misinformation around industrial hemp. It’s not marijuana and you can’t get high from it,” Diamond said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s a naturally occurring plant that’s incredibly strong and durable, making it ideal for use in a wide variety of consumer products.”

Hemp is used to manufacture products such as paper, cloth, rope and building materials. Americans import hemp products from around the world because cultivation is largely banned in the United States.

The federal 1937 Marijuana Tax Act restricted industrial hemp production and the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 declared hemp to be illegal because like marijuana it comes from the cannabis plant.

The 2014 Farm Bill loosened restrictions on the production of industrial hemp and authorizes pilot programs, but Diamond said Pennsylvania – which once led the nation in industrial hemp production – has not caught up to federal developments.

“The feds are catching on to the enormous environmental and economic benefits of the use of industrial hemp, and this pilot program anticipates the full legalization of hemp crops for industrial purposes in the future,” he said. “My bill will put Pennsylvania in position to reap the economic rewards that will come when further barriers are removed.”

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