Two California lawmakers, state Sen. Mark Leno (D) and state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R), introduced legislation on Friday to legalize industrial hemp production in the state.
The legislation would only allow for marijuana plants with "3/10 of 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops" to be grown. Hemp farmers would be required to submit their crop to a DEA-registered laboratory to determine the amount of THC -- the main psychoactive component of marijuana. Crops with too much THC would be destroyed.
The legislation notes that California already imports "tens of thousands of acres’ worth of hemp seed, oil, and fiber products that could be produced by California farmers at a more competitive price." The plant can be used to make a number of products, including foods, fabrics, textiles, papers, bioplastics and biofuels.
Legislation to legalize industrial hemp was reluctantly vetoed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. The governor said the measure ran afoul of federal law.
"Although I am not signing this measure, I do support a change in federal law," Brown explained. "Products made from hemp - clothes, food, and bath products - are legally sold in California every day. It is absurd that hemp is being imported into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it."
The federal government currently does not distinguish between psychoactive and non-psychoactive variants of the marijuana plant, which makes hemp production a serious crime. U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have proposed legislation that would remove the federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The states of Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia have all approved legislation that legalizes hemp production, according to the group Vote Hemp.
[Farmer holding marijuana hemp plant via Shutterstock]