After languishing for 14 years in legislative purgatory, including being met with multiple gubernatorial vetoes, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act (SB 566) was finally signed into law recently by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill allows California residents to grow hemp for industrial purposes by reclassifying the nonpsychoactive sister of cannabis from a felony to a “fiber or oilseed crop.”
SB 566, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D) in 2005, defines industrial hemp as the “nonpsychoactive types of the plant Cannabis saliva L. and the seed produced therefrom, having no more than 3/10 of 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops.”
“We are very pleased to have the signature,” Sen. Leno told the Guardian. “It’s been a 10-year effort to get here. It’s a job still, but [the passing of SB 566] will help sustain family farms in California for the future and likely create more job opportunities. Hemp is a $500 million a year industry in California, and it’s growing at 10 percent annually.”
California has now become one of 10 states and 30 countries that have reclassified the plant as a crop with agricultural and commercial value.
“This is a miracle plant that has served the planet earth well for, literally, millennia, and that we currently legally manufacture and sell thousands of hemp products including food, clothing, shelter, paper, fuel, all biodegradable products,” said Leno.
“It’s renewable every 90 days, grows without herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, and needs less water than corn. It is the definition of sustainability.”
Gov. Brown vetoed the proposed legislation in 2011, citing the conflict of state and federal law. However, in his veto message at the time, he did acknowledge that “it is absurd that hemp is being imported into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it.”
Now that the law has passed in California, the question is how the federal government will respond. Leno is confident that the Justice Department will respect the will of state lawmakers.
“I have great confidence in a recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder,” said Leno. “He’s said that if a state puts into place a legal allowance and regulatory scheme, that the federal government would not interfere with marijuana. Now, we need clarification between hemp and marijuana, but there’s no sensical way that that could be interpreted that hemp is excluded, given that hemp’s not a drug.”