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Senate Passes Bill that would Legalize Industrial Hemp

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, April 12, the Alabama Senate approved Senate bill 347, sponsored by state Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) to permit the growth of industrial hemp for research purposes in Alabama. Such a move would make Alabama the 29th State to allow the scientific research of industrial hemp.

Senate Bill 347 would authorize the Department of Agriculture and Industries, or an institution of higher education, to research the uses of industrial hemp, which is genetically different from marijuana and refers to non-psychoactive varieties of the Cannabis plant.

Sen. Bussman said, “There is enormous economic potential for the use of industrial hemp, which can be used in the production of insulation materials, yarns, textiles, and auto parts.” “This proposal will allow our colleges and universities to investigate industrial hemp’s full potential. I believe industrial hemp could be a huge benefit to our Alabama’s agriculture, but I’m glad we’re taking this initial step approving research before we consider legalization for economic production.”

Auburn University prepared a white paper in 2015 that concluded industrial hemp is well-suited to most of Alabama’s soils and seasonal weather patterns and the Hemp Industries Association estimates the total retail value of industrial hemp products in 2014 was $620 million.

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan said in a statement, “I want to commend Senator Bussman for his leadership on this issue and for his willingness to seek alternative cash crops for Alabama farmers. We look forward to the potential research opportunities this legislation provides our state institutions of higher education.”

Hemp used to be more commonly grown and was used in paper and rope manufacturing. The plant is difficult for a non-farmer or botanist to distinguish between its close cousin, marijuana, so growing hemp has been suppressed for decades. As decriminalization of marijuana has progressed, it is available legally with a prescription in a growing number of states, the reasoning for preventing American farmers from growing hemp has also diminished.

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SB347 now goes to the House for its consideration.

 

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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