Alaska is one step away from becoming the latest state to fight back against the federal government’s “War on Nature” after a bill to legalize the production of industrial hemp passed the state House and Senate and is now awaiting the governor’s approval.
Residents are hopeful that Gov. Bill Walker will sign Senate Bill 6 into law, which would legalize the regulation and production of industrial hemp, and provide for hemp pilot programs. It would also separate hemp from the definition of “marijuana,” and clarify the fact that adding industrial hemp to food does not create an adulterated food product.
“An Act relating to the regulation and production of industrial hemp; relating to industrial hemp pilot programs; providing that industrial hemp is not included in the definition of ‘marijuana’; providing that cannabidiol oil is not included in the definition of ‘hashish oil’; clarifying that adding industrial hemp to food does not create an adulterated food product, and providing for an effective date.”
Hemp is the product of a variety of the cannabis plant, and although it is non-psychoactive, it is still treated as a drug in the United States. However, hemp has the potential to be used in more than 25,000 products, including fibers, textiles, paper and construction and insulation materials—which may explain why the federal government seems intent on keeping it from the public.
Alaska Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes told Alaska Public Media that she introduced the bill more than a year ago after she was approached by local farmers who wanted to grow hemp to use for feed and bedding for livestock and to clean up oil spills.
“It was time to remove hemp from the marijuana statutes. There’s no psychoactive impact from hemp. If you were to smoke acres and acres and acres of hemp, all you would get would be a sore throat and a cough,” Hughes said.
A businesswoman seeking to grow hemp to supplement livestock feed and to use in natural body balms and salves, Ember Haynes, said she is hopeful for the new legislation because it would allow her to stay local instead of having to outsource the products she needs.
“I just want to use Alaska hemp,” Haynes said. “It’s been frustrating for us, just because our business is entirely made up of products that we wild-craft or grow ourselves. And so the hemp seed oil, that would just change everything for us, to have it completely Alaska-grown and made herbs and plants in our products.”
Alaska Cannabis Exchange Owner Aaron Ralph told KTUU News that he is hopeful he will have the opportunity to legally bring his hemp business in Colorado to Alaska. “Being able to grow hemp with 50,000 different uses for hemp it is a no-brainer that we can utilize what we are growing here in some form or facet to help benefit Alaska and it’s economy,” he said.
As The Free Thought Project reported, the state of Nevada passed a new law in June that authorized the cultivation of industrial hemp for commercial purposes and the production of agricultural hemp seed. The legislation also acknowledged the role of hemp in aiding the state’s flourishing cannabis industry.
The law stated that Nevada will allow “a facility for the production of edible marijuana products or marijuana-infused products and a medical marijuana dispensary to acquire industrial hemp from a registered grower or handler,” and will also allow “a facility for the production of edible marijuana products or marijuana-infused products to use industrial hemp to manufacture edible marijuana products and marijuana-infused product.”
Cannabis for recreational use became legal in Alaska in 2015, and it is one of several states pushing to legalize further research on the production of industrial hemp. In 2017, at least 15 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, North Dakota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—passed legislation establishing new licensing requirements and programs for hemp.
While the federal government continues to demonize a natural product that could revolutionize a number of industries, it should be noted that according to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the “only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.”
In contrast, “farmers in more than 30 countries worldwide grow industrial hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food.”