Pennsylvania farmers are pushing to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive brother. Although both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis genus, they have different features and hemp contains less than 3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Hemp can be used as a nutritional food source, to make both consumer and industrial textiles, building materials, paper and much more. It used to be widely grown in the United States, but cultivating it was also banned Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 when it was lumped into the same category as marijuana.
In response to the lobbying from farmers, two Pennsylvania senators, Judy Schwank (D-Berks County) and Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County), have written the ballot language for what they are calling the “Industrial Hemp Bill,” which would legalize hemp cultivation for farmers in the Keystone State.
There is a second measure, “2014 Federal Farm Bill,” that will reportedly be submitted when the Pennsylvania Legislature reconvenes this year, but it excludes most farms in the sate. This bill only establishes a pilot program for industrial hemp farmers that are affiliated with a university.
The bill that senators Schwank and Folmer have written, however, opens the door for hemp cultivation as a cash crop to all farms. Senator Schwank explained to WFMZ,
“The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp, and SB 50 provides oversight for growing, harvesting and marketing a traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers.”
Hemp will not only provide Pennsylvania farmers with a new, lucrative cash crop, but it is also the perfect rotation crop because it cleans the soil and adds nitrogen back into the earth each season. This rotation would replenish soil nutrients, aiding the growth of the next crop planted where the hemp was last harvested. Therefore, it would also improve the growth of the other crops being grown on the farm.
Senator Folmer explained this to WFMZ,
“The use of industrial hemp provides a multitude of benefits. The best farmland preservation is allowing farmers to farm their land profitably. Hemp is also a crop that helps the environment. Consumers will benefit from the many uses of hemp.”
Hemp is so beneficial to soil that it was planted in the Ukraine, in 1998, to cleanse the agricultural lands surrounding Chernobyl after the awful nuclear power plant explosion that contaminated a 30 km radius.
Legalizing the farming of industrial hemp would be a win-win scenario for Pennsylvania farmers and the environment.