Hemp commission ramping up to push for legalization of industrial hemp

Receives $100,000 from Sen. Paul PAC, soapmaker who uses hemp oil in products

Staff report

Industrial hemp

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2012) — The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission conducted its first meeting in more than 10 years today and received new funding to help push for the legalization of industrial hemp.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who was elected chair of the commission today, plans to lobby the General Assembly to allow Kentucky farmers to grow hemp again when the federal government allows it.

If federal hemp legislation is passed, Comer said, “I believe there will be a mad dash from the states to be the first to get on board. Hopefully, Kentucky can be first because I believe we’ll have the infrastructure in place.”

Kentucky has the perfect climate and soil to produce industrial hemp and “the hard-working farmers ready to grow it,” Comer said. “We just have to get the government out of the way.”

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission plans to meet before the 2013 legislative session to finalize legislation it hopes will be filed in the General Assembly during the session.

[pullquote_left]Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting, and clothing. Seeds have been used in making industrial oils, cosmetics, medicines, and food.[/pullquote_left]

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is working to pass federal legislation to legalize hemp. In August, he joined Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to introduce a bill that would remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp in the U.S. The legislation is a companion to a House bill sponsored by Sen. Paul’s father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

Today, Paul’s political action committee donated $50,0000 to the Kentucky hemp commission to finance the effort.

“Kentucky needs jobs. Everybody says they are for job creation, but supporting industrial hemp is their chance to prove it,” Paul said. “Industrial hemp could create thousands of production and manufacturing jobs, and Kentucky has the opportunity to be first in line for them. I strongly urge all Kentuckians to call their legislators and other elected officials and ask them to support the industrial hemp initiative.”

Another $50,000 was donated by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a $50 million company that produces the nation’s top-selling natural soap. Company president David Bronner said he is frustrated that he has to spend more than $100,000 annually to import hemp for its products. The company imports most of its hemp from Canada.

“Hemp seed is a well-balanced source of protein with all amino acids as well as an oil extremely high in the omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids that make our soaps’ lather smoother and less drying,” said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, whose annual sales total over $50 million. “We want to be the first U.S. brand to start using hemp from American rather than Canadian farmers, once they can grow hemp again in Kentucky. We are planning a new line of food products made with American farmed hemp seed and oil, to capitalize on the booming U.S. market for nutritious foods made with hemp seeds.”

The Hemp Industries Association estimates that U.S. retail sales of hemp products exceeded $452 million in 2011, though all hemp raw materials used to make those products were imported. U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include best-selling hemp food manufacturers, such as French Meadow Bakery, Living Harvest Foods, Manitoba Harvest, Nature’s Path, Navitas Naturals, Nutiva and Vega who make their products from hemp grown in Canada. Sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil are also used by major companies such as Ford Motors, Patagonia and The Body Shop.

A Congressional Research Service study says hemp is contained in as many as 25,000 products in the global market, including textiles, automotive applications, furniture, food products, paper, construction materials and personal care products.

Under existing federal law, hemp production in the United States is allowed for research purposes only and is strictly controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

So far, 17 states have passed pro-hemp legislation, and six states (Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) already have authorized the licensing of farmers to grow the crop. However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in these states risk raids by federal agents, prison time and land forfeiture if they plant the crop, because of the failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive varieties, Vote Hemp said.

What is hemp?

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a fiber and oil seed crop with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting, and clothing. Seeds have been used in making industrial oils, cosmetics, medicines, and food. This fiber crop also has potential as a cellulosic ethanol biofuel. Currently, all hemp products sold in the U.S. are imported or manufactured from imported hemp, according to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

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