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Farm bill has marijuana provision

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Feb 10, 2014 at 2:07 PM

The recently-passed farm bill contains a provision that will permit universities and state agricultural departments to research and grow industrial hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant.

This same plant is also utilized for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, albeit illegally in states such as Ohio. For the purpose of this bill, the concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis, many not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

Originally inserted by U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Thomas Massie (R‐Ky.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) as an amendment to the larger farm bill, “Section 7606, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research” will permit the growing of the plant without interference by the federal government. With a vote of 68-32, the U.S. Senate passed the $956.4 billion Agricultural Act of 2014 into law on Tuesday. The U.S. House similarly passed the measure by 251-166 on Jan. 29. President Barack Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.

It will allow institutions of higher education and state departments to conduct "agricultural pilot programs" in the nine states that have re-legalized industrial hemp: California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.

While to date, 32 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and 20 have passed it, Ohio is not among them.

“Ohio needs to get in the game,” said E.R. Beach, southwest regional manager and a member of the Advisory Board for the Ohio Rights Group. “Our state represents one of the most fertile grounds for the reemergence of this vibrant new industry.” He said three factors that bode well for positioning Ohio as a leader in the global hemp market: farming, manufacturing and distribution.

“Food and agriculture is Ohio’s top industry, contributing $105 billion to Ohio’s economy with actual farm gate receipts of $9.65 billion,” according to Ohio Farm Bureau officials.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, Ohio ranked fourth in the U.S. for the number of manufacturing plants: 14,729. Manufacturing was the state’s second largest employer. In terms of logistics, the state ranks third in the country in total value of inbound and outbound shipments at $907 billion, and first in value of outbound shipments at $244 billion. Ohio has the fourth largest rail system.

While there is no official dollar estimate of the market potential for hemp-based products in the U.S., projections from the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) place total U.S. retail value in 2012 at nearly $500 million. Included in this number are body care sales in the range of $156 million to $171 million, along with clothing and textiles at roughly $100 million annually.

“It’s a shame to see Ohio slipping further behind other industries and for us to be continually losing green jobs to Canada and China,” said Ohio Rights Group president, John Pardee. “The growing and production of this plant combined with Ohio’s manufacturing and distribution muscle could likely spur tens of thousands of new jobs and businesses in Ohio in just these three sectors alone. But while permitting long awaited research is good, for all of this to happen, these industries themselves need the rights to make industrial use of the plant. This is where the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment comes in.” Pardee went on to explain that Section 1(H) of the Amendment could spark a bright new economic future in Ohio by giving, “Residents of the State of Ohio, deemed eligible by the Ohio Department of Agriculture under Section 3(E), … the right to produce and sell non-psychoactive Cannabis, also known as hemp, for industrial use including, but not limited to, paper, fuel, foods, building materials and clothing.”

The Ohio Rights Group is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of Ohioans to make medical, therapeutic and industrial use of the Cannabis plant and supports the growing number of individuals, organizations and industries facilitating those uses. 

The organization is fielding the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment, based on Article 1: Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution, which reads, all Ohioans are, “by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.”

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