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California law redefines industrial hemp as a legal crop

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NAIHC.org, October 1, 2013 - The "California Industrial Hemp Farming Act" (SB 566) was signed into law last week by Gov. Jerry Brown. The new law redefines "marijuana" so that the term would exclude biologically-related industrial hemp as long as the plant is not cultivated or processed for any marijuana uses.

California's new industrial hemp law defines industrial hemp as a fiber or oilseed crop, or both, that is limited to the non-psychoactive types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. and the seed produced therefrom.

The qualifications for industrial hemp under the new law include: "having no more than 3/10 of 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, and that is cultivated and processed exclusively for the purpose of producing the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin or flowering tops extracted therefrom, fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed, or any component of the seed, of the plant that is incapable of germination."

The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that "After being stuck in legislative limbo for 14 years, industrial hemp will soon be a legally sanctioned agricultural crop in the state of California. . .  The freshly signed law will allow approved California residents to grow hemp for industrial purposes by reclassifying the once-felonious plant as a 'fiber or oilseed crop'."

Sen. Mark Leno (D) who has championed the bill since 2005 told the Guardian that "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."

"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," Leno said. "It's renewable every 90 days, grows without herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, and needs less water than corn. It is the definition of sustainability."

The Guardian wrote that "the reputation of hemp hasn't always had champions like Sen. Leno. Since the initial proposal of HR 32 back in 1999, the bill has been vetoed four times by three different governors. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cited a 'false sense of security' he feared would be cultivated amongst the growers of the crop, due to its illegality at a federal level. Gov. Brown had previously shot down the proposed legislation in 2011, citing a gap in state and federal law as the reason. However, he did remark in his veto message at the time that 'it is absurd that hemp is being imported into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it'."

According to the Guardian, "Now that SB 566 has passed, however, the looming question still remains as to how the federal government will respond. But Leno is confident that it will respect the will of California lawmakers." Leno explained that "I have great confidence in a recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder. 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."

To read the complete San Francisco Bay Guardian article on California's new industrial hemp law (SB 566), go to: www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/09/27/industrial-hemp-legal-california