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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: March 11, 2015 03:11 PM
From: Representative Russ Diamond and Rep. Marty Flynn
To: All House members
Subject: Industrial Hemp
In the near future, we plan on introducing legislation legalizing, for research purposes, the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp.

Pennsylvania has a rich history of hemp farming, dating back to the mid-1700s when over 100 water-powered hemp mills in central Pennsylvania were in existence. Adams County was the second largest producer of the plant in the region. Lancaster County was also a player in the industry, growing enough of it to dub one of its communities “Hempfield.”

Industrial hemp was cultivated by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Hemp was such an important crop to early America that from 1763-69 it was illegal to refuse to grow it in Virginia. In 1938, hemp was the first cash crop to be dubbed a “billion dollar crop” by Popular Mechanics magazine - at a time when a billion dollars was rarely mentioned in any discussions whatsoever.

Beyond being one of the world’s most durable fibers for textiles, hemp can also be used to manufacture biodegradable plastics, building materials, food, paper, environmental and energy products. Companies overseas are switching out potentially dangerous fiberglass insulation with hemp insulation. Farmers are cultivating the plant in between growing seasons as a cover crop for its ability to keep valuable nutrients in the soil.

Being part of the cannabis family, industrial hemp has garnered some undeserved stigmas. Unlike marijuana, it has a very low – almost undetectable – level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and has zero psychoactive effects. It’s time for our Commonwealth to address the false stigmas surrounding this agricultural product that has so many meaningful applications and opportunities for farmers, manufacturers, consumers and the environment.

Unfortunately, we are unable to go so far as to allow industrial hemp to be grown or produced by private citizens. Federal law currently only allows for “pilot programs” initiated and performed by institutions of higher education and the state Department of Agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. This legislation is a step in the right direction and will put Pennsylvania in position to be a leader in the field once the federal government inevitably relaxes regulations for industrial hemp.

With favorable research comes more government leeway. With more government leeway, a real market for the product emerges, creating jobs and adding diversity to our agricultural portfolio.
For the vast majority of Pennsylvania’s history, industrial hemp was an important and stable cash crop. We look forward to working with you in making that a reality again, and urge you to join us in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

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Introduced as HB967