NOTE: Since the original publication of this article, North Carolina passed SB313 allowing for the legal cultivation of industrial hemp. Read more about North Carolina’s status as a hemp producing state here.
A provision in the new $1.1 trillion U.S. Farm Bill allows for the legal cultivation of industrial hemp – in states that allow it. Once the bill passes (and it is expected to pass at the time of this article), colleges and universities will be allowed to grow hemp for research. This addition to the farm bill suggests the country is ready for the conversation about the benefits of the cannabis sativa plant and the reason it has been illegal for decades.
Currently 11 states allow hemp cultivation. Those states with hemp-friendly laws are Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, Maine, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.
To underscore the readiness of this change, the American Farm Bureau Federation has formally approved a new policy urging the removal of hemp as a controlled substance. This adopted policy secures the most influential farm lobbying organization in the pro-hemp camp.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are both part of the species of plant called Cannabis Sativa. Hemp is similar to marijuana with the exception that hemp contains no psychoactive chemicals that result in the characteristic “high” associated with marijuana. As of this writing hemp is illegal to grow at the national and state level, but is legal to import and process into textiles, paper, biofuels and food.
As North Carolina struggles with its lost textile manufacturing industry and the continued obsolescence of tobacco farms, allowing farmers the ability to cultivate hemp would make sense economically. A recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling (and funded by NORML of North Carolina) shows nearly half of North Carolina voters believe farmers should be allowed to grow the crop.
There are no active bills regarding industrial hemp cultivation. The last time hemp was brought up in state congress was in 2005, when a bill was passed authorizing the study of industrial hemp. This bill went unfunded and was the last time North Carolina had a serious discussion about the benefits of industrial hemp.
The only way for North Carolina to change its laws is for people to let their representatives know how they feel about the hemp laws. North Carolina can not vote on new legislation through ballot initiatives. States like Colorado and Washington passed cannabis friendly laws by gathering enough signatures to put the decision to popular vote. This isn’t an option in North Carolina. Instead voters are dependent on their Representatives and Senators to pass appropriate legislation. Despite a strong percentage of North Carolina being in favor of legalizing marijuana and hemp, these bills have all been ignored and killed in the legislature.
NORML of North Carolina knows it is time for a change in laws, but the organization’s efforts are only as strong as its participants. Please consider being an advocate for the re-legalization of cannabis in North Carolina by joining NORML of North Carolina today.