Hemp Time

State lawmaker is interested in growing industrial hemp in Arizona

State Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, a Democrat from Yuma, recently introduced a bill asking for the creation of an industrial hemp study committee to examine the economic opportunities associated with the industry.

The one-page bill, SB 1225, lists the people who should be part of this study committee, including two members of the state Senate appointed by the Senate president, two members of the state House appointed by the speaker, the director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and the dean of the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. It also includes representatives of a statewide farm association.

This committee would have to look into the benefits of establishing a hemp industry here, and then present their results on or before Sept. 1, 2016.

One of the gubernatorial hopefuls last year, Americans Elect candidate John Lewis Mealer, used the hemp industry as one of the platforms to improve the state's economy should he had been elected.

During his campaign, he reinforced his support for the "trillion-dollar industry." Mealer actually owns an automobile company, where he hopes to incorporate car panels made from industrial hemp one day.

Also, industrial hemp research is mentioned in the Agriculture Act of 2014, or the Farm Bill. A section of the law authorizes university institutions or state departments, where hemp is legal, to grow hemp for research purposes. Hemp hasn't been grown in the U.S. since 1957, according to the advocacy group Vote Hemp.

Arizona lawmakers pushed for a bill last year that would have given hemp farming the green light in the state, but that didn't survive. It was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2014.

This one will likely not survive either in our very conservative state Legislature. Although, it should not be blown off, since the hemp industry could bring great revenue.

Countries like Australia and Canada grow hemp, and in a few states, among them Hawaii and Oregon, it is legal to farm industrial hemp. It's used to make paper products, medicine, body care products and even fuel.

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