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Pennsylvania's House of Representatives Loves Hemp

So much so that they’d like to legalize it, ASAP.

Hemp maze in France, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives loves hemp. Industrial hemp. In fact, they love it so much that the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved the newly-introduced House Bill 967 within minutes of introduction, sending it to the house floor for debate and vote.

House Bill 967, introduced by Representative Russ Diamond on Tuesday (October 6), would allow industrial hemp to be grown or cultivated by special programs in Pennsylvania. Currently, American companies must import industrial hemp from countries such as Canada and China, blockading what has historically been one of America's largest markets.

Pennylvania's move, which mirrors those taken by other states, could potentially open up a number of doors for commercial uses, which would benefit the planet given hemp's low impact on the environment.

"The feds are catching on to the enormous environmental and economic benefits of the use of industrial hemp, and this pilot program anticipates the full legalization of hemp crops for industrial purposes in the future," said Diamond in a statement. "My bill will put Pennsylvania in a position to reap the economic rewards that will come when further barriers are removed."

A hemp crop in Peasenhall Road, Walpole, Suffolk, UK, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hemp, an incredibly resilient crop, can grow in a number of climate and soil types, and is largely pest-resistant. It can be used in everything from clothing and home installation to oils (including fuel), food items and paper production. In fact, paper products can be made with very few chemicals unlike with conventional paper mills, which use chlorine bleach to brighten products. A bit more obviously, hemp grows much faster than trees used in paper products, which would be a major coup for the environment. And these are just a small fraction of its existing and potential uses.
As with other states, Pennsylvania's House Bill 967 grew out of an amendment to a the 2014 federal Farm Bill. Signed into law by President Obama, this bill legally redefined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana, opening the doors for states to pursue academic, state department and commercial research into its benefits as an agricultural crop.
If House Bill 967 passes the Pennsylvania house, the state will join 24 other states in industrial hemp research, including California, Hawaii, West Virginia and New York, amongst others.

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