Farmers in California may finally begin growing industrial hemp under a new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Lawmakers have been discussing the proposal since 1999 to allow approved residents to grow hemp for industrial purposes by reclassifying the plant as a fiber or oilseed crop.

The law defines the crop as the nonpsychoactive types of the Cannabis sativa plant containing no more than 3/10 of 1 percent of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

Supporters of the bill say hemp is a $500 million industry in California and is growing by 10 percent annually.

Nine other states and 30 countries allow the farming of industrial hemp, which can be used for food, clothing, paper, fuel and other biodegradable products, although none of those states have implemented hemp farming laws yet.

The plant requires less water than corn and can be grown without herbicides or pesticides, proponents say.

Similar bills have been vetoed four times by three different California governors over concerns about federal laws outlawing industrial hemp, which is considered no different from marijuana under U.S. law.

But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal government won’t interfere with states that permit the possession or regulation of marijuana.

California lawmakers have said industrial hemp should obviously be permitted, since it’s not even technically a drug.

[Image: cannabis.marijuana.field.shutterstock]