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Alaska Legislature Passes Bill Legalizing Industrial Hemp Production

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Anchorage, AK –  Legislation to legalize the production of industrial hemp has passed both the Alaska Senate and House and now awaits the signature of the Gov. Bill Walker.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 6 would legalize the “regulation and production” of hemp, and would allow for individuals to register for a pilot program to grow industrial hemp. Additionally, the bill specifically denotes that “industrial hemp is not included in the definition of “marijuana,” and clarifies that adding industrial hemp to a food product does not create an “adulterated food product.”

The legislation reads:

An Act relating to the regulation and production of industrial hemp; relating to industrial hemp pilot programs; providing that industrial hemp is not included in the definition of ‘marijuana’; providing that cannabidiol oil is not included in the definition of ‘hashish oil’; clarifying that adding industrial hemp to food does not create an adulterated food product, and providing for an effective date.

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Hemp, also called industrial hemp, is a specific variety of cannabis plant grown for industrial and commercial uses of its fiber, which contain almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that alters an individual’s mental state upon ingestion.

Industrial hemp has the potential to replace many of the currently used fossil fuel-based products as it can be used in a reported 25,000 products— perhaps explaining why a substance that has no psychoactive value is treated as a controlled substance by the U.S. federal government.

As a report, entitled Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes, “hemp is also from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, as marijuana. As a result, production in the United States is restricted due to hemp’s association with marijuana, and the U.S. market is largely dependent on imports…”

The CRS report specifies:

Under current U.S. drug policy, all cannabis varieties—including industrial hemp—are considered Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),1 and DEA continues to control and regulate hemp production.

“It was time to remove hemp from the marijuana statutes,” Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes said. “There’s no psychoactive impact from hemp. If you were to smoke acres and acres and acres of hemp, all you would get would be a sore throat and a cough.”

Alaska Public Media (APM) reported that Hughes introduced the bill more than a year ago after adapting legislation originally written by former Sen. Johnny Ellis, after she was approached by local farmers who wanted to grow hemp to use for livestock feed and bedding.

[RELATED: Jeff Sessions Wages War on Cannabis]

Alaska residents include Ember Haynes and her husband, who would like to grow hemp for use in products they make and sell such as balms, salves and other natural body products, in addition to growing hemp to supplement livestock feed. Currently, the couple must import hemp.

“I just want to use Alaska hemp,” Haynes told APM. “It’s been frustrating for us, just because our business is entirely made up of products that we wild-craft or grow ourselves. And so, the hemp seed oil, that would just change everything for us, to have it completely Alaska-grown and made herbs and plants in our products.”

Resident Jack Bennett told KTVA that he planned to build the first hemp home in Alaska and touted hemp’s value for lowering energy costs. “With hemp as a 100 percent natural insulation material, you are saving a minimal of 50 percent— up to 70 percent— in your energy savings annually,” said Bennett, according to KTVA.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that currently, at least 34 states have passed legislation related to industrial hemp. In 2017, 15 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, North Dakota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—passed legislation establishing new licensing requirements and programs for hemp. At least 27 states have passed laws creating or allowing for the establishment of industrial hemp research or pilot programs.

While many state governments have moved to pass state legislation to legalize the growing of industrial hemp crops amidst the continued federal prohibition, the Congressional Research Service noted that the U.S is the “only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.”

While, in contrast, “farmers in more than 30 countries worldwide grow industrial hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food.”

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