NASHVILLE, May 15, 2014– Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill which some supporters consider the strongest pro-hemp legislation in the country. House Bill 2445 (HB2445), introduced by Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) mandates that the state authorize the growing and production of industrial hemp within Tennessee.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 28-0 and the House by a vote of 88-5. It reads, in part:
“The department shall issue licenses to persons who apply to the department for a license to grow industrial hemp.”
Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, noted that one word strengthened the bill considerably. “By including the word ‘shall’ in this legislation, it has a great deal of impact,” he said. “This means that rather than keeping it open-ended like other states have done, hemp farming will be able to move forward in Tennessee whether the regulatory bureaucrats there want it to or not.”
‘Shall’ is a legal term which creates a specific requirement far stronger than a word like ‘will.’ The former is more closely interchangeable with the word “must,” while the latter allows leeway for the object of the term to delay. In this case, the bill states that the Tennessee department of agriculture will have a mandate to license farmers for growing hemp.
Three other states – Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – have already passed bills to authorize hemp farming, but only in Colorado has the process started. A similar bill was passed in South Carolina this week and awaits action by Gov. Nikki Haley.
Farmers in Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and the state began issuing licenses on March 1, 2014. In Vermont and Oregon, hemp farming was authorized, but no licensing program was mandated, so implementation has been delayed due to regulatory foot-dragging.
With passage of HB2445, Tennessee will most likely become the 2nd state in the country to actively produce hemp. The legislation also ensures that not only will hemp licenses be issued, but the process for doing so will start quickly. It reads:
“The department shall initiate the promulgation of rules … concerning industrial hemp production within one hundred and twenty (120) days of this act becoming law.”
In other words, now that the bill has become law, the process in Tennessee will start no later than November, 2014.
The bill was lobbied for by the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association and the Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center.