Yesterday, Feb 17th, 2014, the Washington State House voted unanimously to approve HB1888, the Hemp Freedom Act. The vote was 97-0.
Sponsored by Representative Matt Shea (R), along with Christopher Hurst (D), Cary Condotta (R), Jeff Holy (R), David Taylor (R) and Jason Overstreet (R), the Hemp Freedom Act would “permit the development in Washington of an industrial hemp industry,” effectively nullifying the de facto federal prohibition on the farming and production of hemp crops within the United States.
House Bill 1888 received unanimous support in the House and now heads to the Senate. The measure authorizes the director of the Department of Agriculture to issue licenses to grow industrial hemp. The department would be designated as the sole source and supplier of seeds used for industrial-hemp production. Hemp is used to make a variety of different products, including clothing, food, beauty products and biofuels.
Introduced in February 2013, HB1888 was first passed by a House committee nearly a year ago. Reintroduced by resolution for the short 2014 regular legislative session, it was sent to the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government & Information Technology for additional approval, where it passed 9-0 earlier this month.
Since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.
Experts 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.
Last week, 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 new “hemp amendment”…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed 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.
Three states – Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – have already passed similar measures. Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities.
Industrial hemp is used for a wide variety of purposes including the manufacture of cordage of varying tensile strength, durable clothing and nutritional products. 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!”
Even though soil, climate and agricultural capabilities could make the United States a massive producer of industrial hemp, today no hemp is grown for public sale, use and consumption within the United States. China is the world’s greatest producer and the United States is the #1 importer of hemp and hemp products in the world.
HB1888 now moves on to the full Washington state senate where it will first be assigned to a committee for consideration before the full senate has an opportunity to send the bill to Gov. Jay Inslee for a signature.