Hemp Bill One Step Closer to Governor’s Desk

by Senator Mark Leno on September 8, 2011

California is one step closer to building a successful hemp industry in the Central Valley. On Wednesday, September 7 the Assembly approved legislation I introduced this year that allows California farmers to grow industrial hemp for the legal sale of seed, oil and fiber to manufacturers. Senate Bill 676 creates a four-county pilot program in Imperial, Kern, Kings and San Joaquin, allowing farmers in our state to tap into the nation’s hemp market, which is currently valued at $400 million annually.

Hundreds of consumer products containing hemp are made in California, but the manufacturers of these goods are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from growers in Canada, Europe and China. Family farmers are missing out on a golden opportunity to grow hemp, which can help expand their businesses, create jobs and stimulate the economy. In addition, hemp requires little to no pesticides and herbicides, is a great rotational crop, and grows quickly with less water, making it an ideal commodity for our state.

Hemp has a deep history in the U.S. The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic with sails made of hemp, and both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp, which was legal tender until the early 1800s. Today, industrial hemp is used to manufacture a vast array of foods, clothing, personal care products and building materials. More than 55% of the U.S. companies that create hemp products are based in California.

SB 676 is co-sponsored by Hemp Industries Association and Vote Hemp. It is also supported by the Kern and Kings County Sheriffs, Kings County Board of Supervisors, Imperial County Farm Bureau, California Certified Organic Farmers, California State Grange and numerous labor and business groups.

The bill has one more stop – back to the Senate for a vote on amendments taken in the Assembly – before heading to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

Mark Leno represents the 3rd State Senate District, which includes San Francisco, Marin and parts of Sonoma Counties.

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