West Virginia House Unanimously Approves Commercial Hemp Farming

By Michael Maharrey

Today, the West Virginia House unanimously passed a bill that would significantly expand the state’s hemp licensing program, opening the door for anybody in the state to produce or process industrial hemp for commercial purposes. Final approval would set the foundation to end federal prohibition in practice.

Del. Jeff Eldridge (D-Alum Creek) and Del. Jim Butler (R-Henderson) introduced House Bill 2453 (HB2453) on Feb. 15. The legislation would remove language in the current hemp licensing program restricting it to the Department of Agriculture and state institutions of higher learning. Under the proposed law, any person with a license could plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell, and buy industrial hemp.

The licensing program is “shall issue,” meaning the Department of Agriculture would be required to issue a license to any person meeting statutory requirements. Without this section, the department could deny applications for a myriad of reasons.

HB2453 passed the House by a 99-0 vote.

“I think West Virginia is kind of in the center; we could have the industry move here to process hemp the plant itself and extract all of the derivatives from the plant you can,” Eldridge said in an interview.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported the limits of the current program due to its conformity with federal law has hindered the development of a hemp industry.

But because of the strict requirements under the 2014 bill, growers are not able to sell their plants and cannot transport them across state lines to be turned into those usable products. That’s limited the ability to create a real hemp industry in the state.

FEDERAL FARM BILL

Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. HB2453 ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.

OTHER STATES

By rejecting any need for federal approval, HB2453 sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. West Virginia could join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, California and Vermont – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.

While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, the West Virginia law would clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, 2105, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.

HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP

According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, Hemp for Victory!

UP NEXT

HB2453 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at MichaelMaharrey.com and like him on Facebook HERE

  • Brother Nature

    This is really good news!

  • gweneth

    Now if the all the states would legalize and end cannabis and hemp and the feds would take it off the ludicrous sched 1.
    This will revitalize the U.S. it is a complete economic system with very green products.

  • gweneth

    meant to add end cannabis and hemp prohibition.

  • Yvonne Forsman

    I should not read such articles, they make my blood boil!!! After Trump was elected and b/f sworn President there was a website put up asking ppl for suggestions on businesses to get America going. I suggested Trump legalizes industrial hemp so we don’t have to import it from China. There are 25,000 uses for industrial hemp! We cut down trees which take 30 years to grow, to make toilet paper, when we could use industrial hemp which takes one Summer to grow!!! How long has Trump been President now? I don’t keep count on his days but if the state of WV has to take these steps then it means industrial hemp has not been legalized, yet. This fascist government attitude is disgusting (this is not a criticism of Trump but all previous governments ever since cannabis and industrial hemp was outlawed, and the shadow government!!!) What’s next? We will need to apply for permit to grow tomatoes??? Maybe register tomato seeds with FBI and CIA? Hemp is a plant, for God’s sake! NOBODY can get high from smoking it, only get a headache! I am sooo tired of corruption, of all these politicians which take bribes from industries to keep things as they always were. What is going on with the “drain the swamp”? Anything? Now Trump asked NJ governor Christie to work with opiate addiction. Does it mean Christie is going to put in prison all the politicians and rich ppl who have profited from the drug trafficking from Afghanistan to the US???? Why don’t I believe he will?

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