Last year, lawmakers in Maine passed a bill which would authorize hemp farming in the state as soon as the federal government lifts its ban on the practice. However, the US Congress has been slow to respond to America’s rising hemp movement and an amendment to the 2014 farm bill signed by President Obama only allows hemp cultivation for research purposes.
On Monday, Maine officially nullified the federal government’s ban on commercial hemp farming in the state when the Maine Senate voted 27-6 to override Republican Governor Paul LePage’s veto of LD4, a GOP-sponsored bill that removes the requirement that farmers obtain federal approval from last year’s hemp farming legalization bill. The Senate vote follows Friday’s veto override effort by the Maine House of Representatives, which passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 135-6.
Governor LePage said in a May 8 statement defending his decision to veto the bill, “I simply cannot support inadvertently putting Maine’s hard working farmers at risk of violating federal criminal laws, which is the practical effect of this bill.” However, lawmakers in the state House and Senate were able to meet the 2/3 vote threshold necessary to override his veto.
Representative Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea), one of the sponsors of the bill, told the Portland Press Herald, “We have people in this state who are ready to make capital investments – real investments – in this (hemp) industry, capital investments that will create jobs and inject money into this economy. All the pieces are in place with the people behind them, ready to go with the flip of a switch.”
Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin wrote, “An amendment to the bill included an ’emergency clause,’ which bypasses the normal 90-day waiting period for a law to take effect. The bill notes that ‘farmers need adequate time to prepare for their upcoming growing seasons,’ and supporters wanted to make sure the process moved forward immediately.”
Boldin continued, “Since the emergency clause was enacted, the new law goes into effect immediately. While there are some rules that will need to be created by the Department of Agriculture, the sponsors of LD4 expressly included in the measure that all will be ‘routine technical’ rather than ‘major substantive’ rules, and required the commissioner to issue them… Once this process is completed, it will be up to individuals and businesses in Maine to strike the final blow against federal bans on hemp farming. Should courageous farmers start growing industrial hemp without further authorization from Washington DC, the decades long prohibition will be effectively nullified in practice.“