Sen. Rand Paul Answers Farms.com Questionnaire on Hemp Bill
By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introduced a historic bill on Aug. 2, 2012 that would remove restrictions on industrial hemp farming in the United States. While Bill S.3501 has gained wide bi-partisan support, it has also sparked a controversial debate largely over federal policy that currently doesn’t distinguish between non-drug oilseeds – hemp from psychoactive drugs such as Marijuana. There have been over seventeen states that have passed pro-hemp legislation to date including, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia. However, despite state authorization for farmers to grow hemp, state laws are overridden by the federal drug policy.
Although, farmers have technically been given permission to grow hemp for industrial use, they don’t for fear of raids by federal agents or even face prison time if they plant hemp as a crop. Sen. Rand Paul has been advocating on behalf of farmers to make changes to a 75 year old law that prohibits farmers from growing hemp for industrial use. If the bill passes, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act would remove federal restrictions to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, distinguishing hemp from marijuana.
Sen. Rand Paul answers a questionnaire prepared by Farms.com Editor Amanda Brodhagen - explaining the history of the bill, how it could help farmers, the economic benefits and the key participants involved. The Senator answers thirteen questions that provide greater insight into the importance of this bill.
• Can you provide some insight into the historical resistance towards hemp?
“The passing of 1937 Marijuana Tax Act in conjunction with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 essentially banned the industrial use of hemp by defining hemp as a narcotic and requiring farmers to hold Drug Enforcement Administration permits. Our nation is a far cry from the one that used to encourage farmers to grow hemp for its versatility through the Hemp for Victory program.”
• Why does the Senator support the efforts to legalize hemp for industrial use in Kentucky?
“In addition to the economic benefits associated with the industrialization of hemp, there has been substantial grassroots support behind this issue in Kentucky. Hemp can be used for nutritional supplements, cattle feed and bedding, textiles, paper, cosmetics and alternative fuels. Prior to the industrial ban, the Commonwealth routinely accounted for half of all hemp production in the United States.
Being from an agricultural state, I often think of our farmers who have dealt with persistent droughts and the toll it has taken on them and their families. This environmentally sustainable crop requires fewer pesticides and can replenish our soil through crop rotation, increasing yields the following year.”
• How does the Senator defend the comparisons between industrial hemp and marijuana?
“I’ve found that these comparisons are often made by those who are unfamiliar with the crop. It is true that hemp is in the same plant species as marijuana. However, the two are very different. On average, hemp contains less than 1 percent of THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana, while marijuana can contain upwards of 10 percent THC.
As my father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), sponsor of an industrial hemp bill in the House often jokes, you would need to smoke a hemp cigarette the size of a telephone pole for it to possibly have any effect.”
• What are the most commonly grown cash crops in Kentucky?
“The top five cash crops in Kentucky last year were corn, soybeans, tobacco, wheat and hay.”
• What do you foresee as the economic benefits of allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp?
“Hemp has grown increasingly popular in the United States. Selling between $60 million to $100 million in hemp-based foods and nutritional supplements each year, these products could be produced and grown in the U.S. rather than abroad.”
• What kind of response has the Senator been receiving from farmers about the bill to legalize hemp?
“I’ve spoken with many farmers in Kentucky and the response has overwhelming been, “I wish this would have been done sooner!” This bill has brought in a lot of support from the both sides of the aisle. It is an economic issue rather than a partisan one.”
• How profitable would growing hemp be for Kentucky farmers?
“According to the University of Kentucky, the industrialization of hemp would create 70,000 jobs in the Commonwealth with upwards of $1.5 trillion in annual earnings.”
• What would be a typical profit margin for a farmer growing industrial hemp after all input costs have been calculated?
“According to Vote Hemp, farmers in Manitoba, Canada, have yielded $150/acre once costs are factored in. To put this into perspective, the profit margin for hemp is between $50-75/acre more than canola, one of the U.S. and Canada’s most abundant crops.
While these numbers are based on Canada’s agricultural landscape, U.S. farmers are expected to yield higher profit margins by growing different varieties of hemp.”
• Is there a market demand for industrial hemp?
“The demand for hemp has grown exponentially in recent years. In 1997, hemp-based sales were at $75 million worldwide. Since that time, North America alone has grossed $400 million in hemp-based sales annually. Nearly half of that can be attributed to the U.S.”
• Do you think some farmers would still be skeptical about growing hemp for industrial use even if the bill passes?
“Farmers and consumers in Kentucky have been advocating for the use of industrial hemp for years; our legislature has also been working towards this. I believe that when this bill is passed, the Commonwealth will be ready.”
• What are some of the key things that the Senator is doing to raise awareness and gain support for his sponsored bill?
“During my time at the Kentucky State Fair, I participated in a rally with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer advocating for industrial hemp.”
• Who are the key advocates of the bill?
“Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is the leading sponsor of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2012. I am an original cosponsor with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).”
• Is the Senator confident that the bill will pass?
“Although there is a groundswell of public support behind this bipartisan bill, we will need to make some headway with current Members of Congress for S. 3501 to pass.”
Note from the Editor Thank you Senator Rand Paul for shedding light on Bill S. 3501. It’s apparent that the Hemp Bill is pro-farmer and eliminates the barriers for agricultural producers to cultivate hemp has a legal crop recognized by states and the federal government. This bill not only provides opportunities for economic benefits for rural economies but it also puts an end to the negative association that industrial hemp has from marijuana.