Flynn, Diamond Introduce Bill to Restore Agricultural Production of Industrial Hemp

HARRISBURG, April 13 – From the mid-1700s until the 1970s, industrial hemp was an important agricultural component of the Commonwealth’s economy. If two lawmakers have their way, the crop could soon return to Pennsylvania fields.
 
Reps. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) and Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna) today introduced legislation, House Bill 967, that would take the first step toward allowing Pennsylvania farmers to again cultivate industrial hemp. The product, which is widely used in a variety of everyday consumer items, is currently allowed to be grown only in pilot programs reserved for universities and agricultural research facilities under a provision of the 2014 federal Farm Bill.
 
Diamond and Flynn said their bill would bring Pennsylvania in line with current federal law. Because it is considered likely that federal regulations will ease further in the near future, the bill would put the state ahead of the pack once domestic production is permitted to get into full gear.
 
“Industrial hemp is a common and safe agricultural product that is grown worldwide,” said Diamond. “It is one of world’s most durable fibers and can be found in products ranging from automobile dashboards to home insulation. It’s also been used as a soil fertilizer and is in a wide array of building materials and food items. Pennsylvanians are missing out on these economic benefits, while we continue to import products containing industrial hemp from overseas. This bill would establish our competitive advantage in the growing hemp marketplace.”
 
Flynn added, “Our founding fathers grew and cultivated hemp right here in Pennsylvania over 200 years ago. Today, we have the opportunity to take agriculture and production jobs that exist overseas – and bring them not only to the United States, but to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We need to act now. If we don’t, other states will see this inevitable opportunity and act on it immediately.”
 
Diamond and Flynn stressed that contrary to popular belief, industrial hemp is not marijuana. The two products are separate varieties of the same plant and differ significantly in chemical composition. Industrial hemp contains only trace elements of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – not enough to produce a high if ingested.
 
Confusion about the varieties led to widespread bans on industrial hemp after the federal government began clamping down on marijuana in the 1930s. Industrial hemp has continued to be produced abroad, and the bans that previously were in place are being re-thought as both the economic benefits and the benign nature of the plant have become clearer.
 
The bill has garnered 23 bipartisan co-sponsors and will be assigned to the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee for review.