Rep. Paul Curtman, introduced House Bill 170 (HB170) on Jan. 4. The legislation removes industrial hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances and designates it as an agricultural crop. The bill includes a “shall issue” licensing and monitoring program that would allow larger producers to cultivate hemp for commercial purposes.
On Monday, the House Agricultural Policy Committee passed HB170 by a 10-3 vote.
Under the proposed law, hemp production would be limited to fields greater then 2.5 acres, and does authorize small-scale or home grown hemp for commercial purposes. While these limitations are not ideal, a similar restriction was originally in place in Oregon. Over time as the public’s fear of hemp subsided, an effort began to get the regulations relaxed. In In 2016, Gov. Brown signed a bill into law removing any and all plot-size restrictions on commercial hemp. (learn more here)
The bill includes a provision allowing farmers to retain seeds for planting the year following a harvest. In some states, seeds are extremely hard to come by when they cannot be retained year over year and farmers have to rely on the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for their supply.
To defuse law enforcement opposition and address claims that industrial hemp would be indistinguishable from it’s sister plant, marijuana, the legislation also includes a provision which allows the Department of Agriculture to require an “Industrial Hemp Monitoring System,” which is defined in the bill as:
an electronic seed-to-sale tracking system that includes, but is not limited to, testing and data collection established and maintained by a grower or handler and available to the department for purposes of documenting and for monitoring agricultural hemp seed and industrial hemp plant development throughout the life cycle of an industrial hemp plant cultivated as an agricultural product from seed planting to final packaging.Significantly, HB170 does not require growers to get federal permission to cultivate hemp in the state.