On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul along with three bipartisan co-sponsors, Sen. Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Sanders (I-VT), introduced the Senate companion bill to H.R. 1831, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011. Both bills would legalize industrial hemp cultivation.
Sen. Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), is heading up the effort in the House to remove federal restrictions that prevent farmers from planting the crop. The federal government does not distinguish hemp fibers of cannabis from the drug plant variety. Co-sponsors for H.R. 1831 include Rep. Baldwin (D‐WI), Rep. Blumenauer (D‐OR), Rep. Clay (D‐MO), Rep. Cohen (D‐TN), Rep. DeFazio (D‐ OR), Rep. Ellison (D‐MN), Rep. Farr (D‐CA), Rep. Frank (D‐ MA), Rep. Grijalva (D‐AZ), Rep. Hinchey (D‐ NY), Rep. Kucinich (D‐OH), Rep. McClintock (R‐CA), Rep. McDermott (D‐WA), Rep. Miller (D‐CA), Rep. Moran (D‐VA), Rep. Nadler (D‐NY), Rep. Pingree (D‐ME), Rep. Polis (D‐CO), Rep. Rohrabacher (R‐CA), Rep. Schakowsky (D‐IL), Rep. Stark (D‐CA) and Rep. Woolsey (D‐CA).
“Introducing this bill is the first step toward a common sense policy on hemp that helps create American jobs,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), in a statement. “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.”
Seventeen states have passed pro-hemp legislation, according to Vote Hemp, an advocacy organization. Ten states have legalized the production or research of hemp. Yet, federal barriers make cultivating hemp a dangerous endeavor, punishable by fines, property forfeiture, and/or prison.
“With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits,” says Vote Hemp President, Eric Steenstra.