July 27, 2009 – Oregon could shortly become the seventh state to permit industrial hemp production, possession and commercialization if the governor follows hempthrough on plans to sign Senate Bill 676 that passed in the Senate and House in June.

While Oregon would be the first state to allow hemp production on the West Coast, it will not be able to begin growing the plant, along with all other states that have passed the bill, until the federal government lifts its ban on national hemp production.

The main issue involved in legalizing hemp growth is its biological similarity and cultural association with marijuana. While both are members of the Cannabis family, marijuana contains up to about 20 percent THC, the main chemical in the plant that leads to psychoactive effects, while hemp only contains around .03 percent.

“People see hemp as a form of drug, when in reality, it would simply lead to a headache if used in that way,” Sen. Floyd Prozanski said. Prozanski founded the movement to legalize hemp in Oregon 12 years ago by introducing a bill in the legislature.

Hemp fiber and seed can be used as a principal substance for thousands of products, including health food, textiles, building materials, paper and plastics. “This plant is an incredible textile, and overall commodity,” Gov. Ted Kulongoski said Tuesday. “Passing this bill is a positive step forward for the state.”

Currently, all of the hemp-made products in the U.S. must import the seed and fiber from countries such as Canada, Germany and China, leading to a pricey trade for the national businesses. Prozanski is critical of the government’s prohibiting hemp production in the U.S. for so long.

“Compared to so many other industrially grown plants, hemp is a sustainable product,” he said. “It would provide a complete full circle of benefit in the community that it is farmed and could lessen the carbon impact.” Prozanski sees industrial hemp playing a large role as an agricultural commodity as soon as 2011, because he believes President Barack Obama, compared to George W. Bush, will be more flexible in this matter.

If the bill becomes law, there will be strict regulations on the growing process. Farmers will only be allowed to use 2.5 acres of land for growing, equipped with a GPS identification for each licensed farmer’s field. The state Department of Agriculture will be responsible for unlimited inspection of the growing plots, in which it will measure the amounts of THC in each plant, the area of the land farmers use, and the way in which the farmer is selling his or her share.

“Our role in this issue is limited to developing an inspection and certification program for industrial hemp if and when the federal prohibition is lifted,” Oregon DOA spokesperson Bruce Pokarney wrote. A violation of any of the hemp-growing permit regulations leaves the farmer with a $2,500 fine.

Pokarney says the DOA is still far from having enough funding to develop a hemp regulation program. “We have not been given any funds to develop a program yet and those types of considerations will be necessary before proceeding,” Pokarney wrote.

Until the mid-’70s, hemp was produced industrially throughout the country – in fact, it was subsidized. Not until marijuana became culturally known and outlawed was hemp looked down upon.

If the federal government passes the hemp legislation, it might lead to a stronger state interest in legalizing marijuana. “This whole process may be the beginning of a larger discussion regarding the plant,” Kulongoski said. Source.

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