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Friday, 21 June 2013 16:00

U.S. House of Representatives Votes to Legalize Industrial Hemp

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-200 on June 20 to legalize the industrial farming of hemp fiber. Hemp is the same species as the marijuana plant, and its fiber has been used to create clothing, paper, and other industrial products for thousands of years; however, it has been listed as a “controlled substance” since the beginning of the drug war in the United States. Unlike marijuana varieties of the plant, hemp is not bred to create high quantities of the drug THC.

The amendment's sponsor, Jared Polis (D-Colo.), noted in congressional debate that “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp — but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here. The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities — the greatest in the world — to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”

The 225-200 vote included 62 Republican votes for the Polis amendment, many of whom were members of Justin Amash's Republican Liberty Caucus or representatives from farm states. But most Republicans opposed the amendment, claiming it would make the drug war more difficult. “When you plant hemp alongside marijuana, you can't tell the difference,” Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) said in congressional debate on the amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.

“This is not about a drugs bill. This is about jobs,” Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) countered King in House floor debate June 20. Massie, a key House Republican ally of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, opposes marijuana legalization but had signed on as a cosponsor of the Polis amendment. 

The amendment would take industrial hemp off the controlled substances list if it meets the following classification: “The term ‘industrial hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The amendment would allow industrial farming of hemp “if a person grows or processes Cannabis sativa L. for purposes of making industrial hemp in accordance with State law.” Most states have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp, in whole or in part, but federal prohibitions have kept the plant from legal cultivation.

However, the annual agricultural authorization bill subsequently went down to defeat in the House by a vote of 195 to 234. Sponsors of the amendment hope that it will be revised in conference committee, where it has strong support from both Kentucky senators, Rand Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The legislation, originally offered as the bill H.R. 525, was sponsored by Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who represent states where voters recently considered ballot measures that legalized marijuana within their states, a fact King pointed out in House floor debate. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved the ballot measures in 2012, but voters in Oregon rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized cultivation of marijuana.

Recent polls have indicated that most Americans want legalization of marijuana, as well as hemp. Though support for marijuana legalization is by only a slim majority of the public, there's a larger divide among age groups, with younger voters more heavily favoring legalization.

None of the debate on the amendment related to the constitutional authority of Congress to ban substances. Nor did any congressman reference the first time Congress banned a drug — alcohol. At that time, Congress followed proper constitutional protocol to amend the U.S. Constitution first, giving it the legitimate power to ban alcohol (i.e., the 18th Amendment). No comparable constitutional amendment has been passed for hemp, marijuana, raw milk, or any other substance prohibited by the federal government.

 

6 comments

  • Comment Link Mike Vasovski Thursday, 27 June 2013 17:43 posted by Mike Vasovski

    Mark Sanford, who voted along side Ron Paul when they were in Congress together, voted yes. I am glad that South Carolina sent him back.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Tuesday, 25 June 2013 09:10 posted by MemphisMickey

    Contrary to what you may believe, Robert Welch stated many times that the JBS does not go as far as the Libertarians when it comes to defining personal and moral laws....
    The JBS has a whole program about supporting MORALE laws

  • Comment Link Frank Tuesday, 25 June 2013 00:40 posted by Frank

    MemphisMickey, Drug legalization is a State Issue, not a Federal Issue. The Constitution says nothing about drug laws.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Monday, 24 June 2013 11:24 posted by MemphisMickey

    I would hope the JBS is against the legalization of Marijuana. I know that morally, I am against it.

  • Comment Link Joel Monday, 24 June 2013 10:35 posted by Joel

    MemphisMickey- If most voters wanted legalization of Heroin we would have far larger problems to be concerned about. Comparing Heroin and Marijuana is absurd. Furthermore this article is about legalizing hemp. The benefits of hemp far outweigh their concerns. If enough regulation is put on the farmers then what's the problem? Hemp and Marijuana do look similar but to the trained eye are nowhere near the same thing. A hemp plant does not have the same aroma as today's marijuana plants and hemp doesn't produce nearly the same budding as that of a marijuana plant. Hemp produces paper, thread, fuel and many more products and hemp regenerates several times in a years time. Not only will hemp be good for our economy but it will be great for our environment. Less trees will be needed for the paper industry, and less crude oil will be needed for fuel. The upside of hemp is tremendous and we need to old oil supporting fools out of politics so that forward thinking leaders can make this country strong once again. Furthermore the legalization of marijuana would free up billions of dollars being spent to fight the drug and instead generate billions in tax revenue taking the money from the hands of law breaking criminals and placing it into the hands of small business and the economy. This isn't rocket science. It is common sense and our government seems to have lost it.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Monday, 24 June 2013 09:22 posted by MemphisMickey

    We are a Republic not a Democracy, if most voters wanted legalization of Heroin, would that be ok?

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