Yesterday Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced S. 3501, the Senate companion bill to H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011.
If passed, the bill would remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. The language of the bill mirrors that of H.R. 1831 which was introduced in the House this session. The full text of the bill, its status and a list of co-sponsors can be found at: http://votehemp.com/legislation. “Introducing this bill is the first step toward a common sense policy on hemp that helps create American jobs,” says Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). “It is vital that all advocates for industrial hemp redouble their efforts to win support in Congress if we are going to reestablish this economically important crop.”
To date, seventeen states have passed pro-hemp legislation, and ten states (Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in these states still risk raids by federal agents, prison time and property forfeiture if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive drug varieties.
“We are very pleased to see action being taken in the Senate on the 75th anniversary of the Marihuana Tax Act which put unreasonable restrictions on hemp farming. American farmers have been denied the right to grow a crop that our Founding Fathers considered essential to our nation’s well-being. It is imperative now that other Senators co-sponsor this bill, and that President Obama and Attorney General Holder also take action to allow American farmers to grow hemp under state law,” says Vote Hemp President, Eric Steenstra.
“With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to once again allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits,” adds Steenstra.