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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

North Dakota Takes Bold Step Forward On Commercial Hemp Industry, Tells Feds To Stay Out

Huffington Post

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) signed a bill into law on Friday that lays the groundwork for a commercial hemp industry and explicitly cuts the federal government out of the state's licensing process.

House Bill 1436 establishes guidelines for the state's industrial hemp program and allows people to apply to grow the plant for either research or commercial purposes. With its provision for commercial hemp, the law goes beyond the federal Farm Bill, passed by Congress last year, which allowed some states to cultivate the plant, but only for research purposes and in more restricted pilot programs. 

The new measure builds on previous legislation that had legalized industrial hemp farming in North Dakota, but had gone largely unimplemented. Harsh federal restrictions on hemp have left some growers open to prosecution, making many states wary of pushing forward with cultivation. In addition to North Dakota, twelve other states have passed legislation to establish commercial industrial hemp programs, and a handful more have approved hemp production for agricultural uses or academic research. However, a number of those states have not actually moved ahead with officially establishing commercial hemp operations. 

North Dakota will join the five states -- Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont -- that actually implement the hemp laws they have on the books. The Hemp Industries Association, a nonprofit trade group consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, recently reported that those states collectively planted approximately 125 acres of hemp crops last year.

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