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Ducey vetoes industrialized hemp for Arizona farmers

Gov. Doug Ducey killed a bill that would have opened a new industry for Arizona farmers Monday, May 22.

SB 1337, introduced by Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) would have allowed Arizona farmers to grow hemp for industrial use, which includes rope, textiles, soap and more.

The bill saw overwhelming support as it flew through both the House and the Senate, garnering only six nay votes in the entirety of its appearances on the floors.

If ever the Arizona state legislature could boast a bipartisan bill, this was it.

And Ducey squashed it.

Opposition against recreational marijuana from a Republican is at the very least understandable, but hemp grown under the defunct bill would have had THC level below .3 percent.

Smoking your hemp hoodie isn't advised, even in the driest of dry spells.

But as much as it'd make criticism of Ducey easier, he isn't stupid. He knows people aren't going to walk around whiffing fumes from the smoldering end of a rope.

So what gives with the veto?

There are two likely scenarios.

First, Ducey is simply afraid of anything marijuana related. We know he's not a fan. He spent a good deal of last election season raising funds against Prop 206 for the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.

A couple million came in from local chain Discount Tire, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and Chandler-based pill pushers Insys Therapeutics.

The connection between tires, casinos and marijuana isn't clear, but this is a free country and people can spend their money however they'd like.

Ducey is pretty friendly to the business community, but evidently, he isn't a big fan of competitive resources.

Hemp has a wide range of industrial use. It stands to reason that a new, versatile and resilient crop on the scene would shake things up a bit for Arizona businesses. Hemp tires don't even seem too far-fetched.

With near-unanimous support in the state legislature, Ducey's veto is a slap in the face of local politicians and their constituents.

His official reasoning was the would-be law didn't provide enough funding for the Department of Agriculture to administer the program, according to his veto letter—something that 90 state legislators must've missed.

Given the variety of uses for hemp, farmers could expect to see a fair amount of income generated from the new plant. There'd likely be enough cash to throw the meager amount needed to regulate a barely legal crop.

Around the country, 30 states have legalized hemp for growth. In 2013, hemp was a $581-million industry, according to the National Hemp Association.

For now, Arizona is just going to have to sit this one out. A new bill next year could pass across the desk of a new governor, or assuage Ducey's concerns.

But with this veto, Ducey shows his commitment to private-sector innovation and less government regulation is limited to putting robot cars on the road and pushing unsafe drug-testing scams.

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