Blumenauer helps push hemp over the hump

Oregon's Earl Blumenauer believes that hemp farmers need reassurances that federal officials won't seize their properties.
Cathy Cheney | Portland Business Journal

Oregon's Earl Blumenauer believes that hemp farmers need reassurances that federal officials won't unduly seize their properties.

Supporters of last week’s failed farm bill are nonetheless encouraged that lawmakers accepted an amendment that would have made industrial hemp farming legal.

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat, was one of three leaders who proposed the amendment. Blumenauer, Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis and Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie maintained that colleges and universities should be able to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes.

The measure would only apply in states such as Oregon where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal. Federal law supersedes state rules on hemp-related matters.

“Hemp is not marijuana,” the trio wrote. “Our amendment defines industrial hemp as a product containing less than 0.3 percent (tetrahydrocannabinol, a component of cannabis). At this concentration, and even at much higher concentrations, it is physically impossible to use hemp as a drug.”

Despite Oregon’s hemp production laws, farmers face the risk that federal agents could raid them and lead to their property’s forfeiture.

The Washington Post called the amendment’s passage “the most significant sign of progress on the federal level that hemp advocates have ever seen” and predicted the hemp provision could reappear in another agriculture bill sooner rather than later.

Eighteen other states have passed pro-hemp legislation along with Oregon.

Industrial hemp is used for paper, clothing, rope and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels, Massie noted in a release.

“It’s our goal that the research this amendment enables would further broadcast the economic benefits of the sustainable and job-creating crop,” he said earlier this month.

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