Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jul 2016
Source: Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Standard-Speaker
Author: Robert Swift


Harrisburg - Three months after Pennsylvania legalized the use of 
marijuana for medical purposes, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law Wednesday 
allowing for greater cultivation of hemp, another cannabis plant.

Farmers will be able to cultivate hemp in connection with state and 
academic research program as a result. The state Agriculture 
Department will oversee these programs. The law brings Pennsylvania 
in line with a recent federal law that allows hemp pilot programs at 
universities involved with agricultural research.

Lawmakers gave final approval to the hemp bill earlier this month 
after lawmakers in both chambers pushed for its passage as a first 
step to reviving a hemp production in Pennsylvania.

"Supporting this industry in Pennsylvania is a smart investment in 
the commonwealth's economy," Wolf said.

Rep. Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton, is a key cosponsor of the new law.

He said it's time that Pennsylvania address the false stigmas 
surrounding hemp, a high-fiber agricultural product that has many 
economic uses and a positive impact on the environment.

Flynn said he got involved with the issue because of the potential to 
use hemp in textiles, building materials, insulation and other 
products. Farmers are cultivating hemp as a cover crop between 
growing seasons because of its ability to keep nutrients in the soil, he added.

The debate over the legislation during the past two years revolved 
around how hemp is different from marijuana.

At a legislative hearing in early 2015, a state agricultural official 
testified that hemp is from the same species as marijuana, but is low 
in active THC, the substance that leads to the high that smokers feel 
from marijuana. Hemp has less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive 
THC, compared with the 5 percent to 20 percent THC content of marijuana.

Hemp was a primary crop in Pennsylvania during the 18th and 19th 
centuries. Mills in Lancaster and York counties processed hemp fiber. 
Hemp production declined as a result of federal tax policy and laws 
enacted in the 1950s making it illegal to grow any cannabis plant varieties.

The agriculture department estimates it will cost $500,000 to run the 
hemp research program during its first year.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom