Arizona’s 60 member House of Representatives approved a preliminary plan to allow farmers to grow hemp in the sunny southwestern state. SB 1337 advanced without dissent. The bill already cleared the Senate earlier this year, but the House version amended the bill in such a way that it wont allow it implementation for the unforeseeable future.
The bill was introduced earlier this session by Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City. His original bill allowed the state of Arizona to move forward without any direct approval from the federal government, who still treat hemp as marijuana unless it’s tetrahydrocannibinol levels are below 0.3% and the state’s hemp program produces the crop in conjunction with state agricultural departments. The original bill would have directed the Arizona Department of Agriculture to issue hemp licenses under these guidelines.
Unfortunately, a representative in the House decided to introduce an amendment that would require a complete change in the federal law, not just guidelines to follow. Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, offered the amendment which prevents the state from issuing the licenses to grow hemp until the federal government legalizes hemp production.
Many states have pushed ahead with industrial hemp legislation. The Arizona Daily Sun reports:
A 2014 federal law allows universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp in certain circumstances, including research. Some states already are moving in that direction.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports 16 states have legalized hemp production for commercial purposes, with another 20 having laws allowing research and pilot programs. NCSL reports that some are in compliance with federal laws that already allow research; some of the laws are conditional on changes in federal laws.
Deputy Pima County Attorney Kathleen Mayer, who opposed Borrelli’s initial legislation, said the version approved by the House is more acceptable. She said there now appear to be sufficient regulatory and testing requirements to ensure that what the state is legalizing does not become an excuse for farmers to start growing fields of marijuana and claiming it is hemp.