SACRAMENTO -- Assembly Bill 1147 authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), permitting California farmers to grow industrial hemp for the sale of seed, oil and fiber to manufacturers passed the Senate Public Safety Committee today on a vote of 4 to 2.
"California farmers are missing out on a multimillion dollar market that already exists in California," said Assemblyman Mark Leno. "Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufactures are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries. This measure will allow California to lead the way in tapping into a $270 million industry that's growing by $26 million each year."
Sponsored by Vote Hemp, AB 1147 would permit California farmers to grow industrial hemp, a variety of cannabis that grows up to 16 feet tall, resembles bamboo, and has no psychoactive properties. Under the bill, industrial hemp is defined as cannabis having 0.3% THC or less and its cultivation is only permitted as an agricultural field crop or in a research setting. Cultivation in groves, yards, or other locations is prohibited.
"Our bill is about letting California farmers grow a crop that's legal worldwide. We can import hemp, we can process it into shampoo, plastics, and food, but we won't let our farmers grow it. AB 1147 is a common sense measure that regulates the industrial farming of hemp to conform with federal law while relieving law enforcement of the burden of having to discern legal hemp from illegal marijuana grown in clandestine groves," said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.
Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibers known and is grown and processed throughout the world for paper, fuel, clothing, building materials, canvas, rope, beauty care products, food and automobile parts, among others. The seed has many nutritional benefits because it contains essential amino acids, including omega-3 commonly found in fish, and is an alternative source of protein. Hemp also has strong environmental benefits. It's a source for paper that could enable us to save our trees for higher end uses such as lumber. Hemp can be used as a raw material for ethanol fuel with no net addition to greenhouse gases. It requires little or no agricultural chemicals, smothers weeds, and improves soil conditions, making it an excellent rotational crop.
"Once this bill is enacted, it will create a more efficient market, leading to better prices for the consumer, and provide an opportunity to expand the market for the nutritious hemp seed," said David Bronner, head of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, an Escondido-based company is the number one producer of natural soaps in the world with sales near $20 million annually. Mr. Bronner says his company has spent $800,000 in the last five years importing hemp oil from Canada.
For years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has scheduled live cannabis plants as a controlled substance despite the fact that hemp has no psychoactive effects. Hemp has less than three tenths of one percent THC while marijuana contains five to twenty-five percent THC. In 2004, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the DEA did not have the authority to regulate industrial hemp under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. The DEA decided not to appeal that decision and the Court's ruling now stands as U.S. law on the issue.