Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed a new bill that will allow for the cultivation and research of industrial hemp throughout Nevada under the current federal guidelines for the plant.
Senate Bill 305 passed through both chambers of the state legislature unanimously, passing through the Assembly with a winning vote of 41-0 and the Senate with a vote of 19-0. The bill was sponsored by Democratic state Senator Tick Segerblom and received a large amount of bipartisan support throughout its process in the legislature. Under the new regulations, colleges, universities and the Department of Agriculture will all be legally allowed to cultivate industrial hemp specifically for research purposes under a pilot program.
The bill will set up an agricultural pilot program, which will monitor and regulate the amount of hemp grown and what it’s used for through the different institutions. The language of the bill specifically defines hemp as the member of the cannabis sativa plant family that contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis plants that produces the iconic ‘high’ felt from smoking marijuana. This is meant to differentiate between the two products in an effort to create a distance between the medical and recreational marijuana industries and the industrial hemp industry.
“There are a lot of people anxious to grow hemp and this won’t really solve that,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, at the time of the bill’s passage. “We will be able to get some crops in the ground and show that hemp is not the boogie man we feared, but commercial farmers still won’t be able to grow it.”
The hemp plant can be used to make a number of useful products, including paper products, textiles, clothing, food products, biofuels and an environmentally-friendly insulation material known as hempcrete. Additionally, the plant is extremely easy to grow, requiring half the water needed to grow alfalfa, can replenish nutrients in soil to be used to grow other kinds of crops and requires no pesticides to grow, making it one of the most valuable crops for use by farmers of any kind.
Currently, there are 20 states throughout the United States that have passed similar laws to the one that Governor Sandoval has. Products made from hemp materials are already legal to purchase in the United States, but not from any growers within the nation itself. Instead, the products are imported from more than 30 countries worldwide, with China and Canada being the leading suppliers for the U.S., the world’s largest importers of the plant.
The United States is the only developed nation not taking advantage of producing industrial hemp as a cash crop, despite the fact that consumers across the nation purchased more than $640 million worth of hemp products in 2014.
Fortunately, more and more states are beginning to follow along with Nevada, passing industrial hemp bills that will allow for research and cultivation. If all goes well in the next few years, hemp could easily become one of the nation’s biggest cash crops.
Do you think hemp should be legal to grow in the U.S.? Share your thoughts in the comments.