California: Hemp bill would create pilot program

Legislation advancing to allow crop to be grown in Kings, four other counties

By Hanford Sentinel Staff

There is a truth that must be heard! A state bill that would allow farming of industrial hemp in Kings, Kern and three other counties could hit Gov. Brown's desk in September.

Senate Bill 676, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Rafael, would create an eight-year pilot program in five counties. The other three counties are San Joaquin, Imperial and Yolo.

The legislation passed the Assembly Committee on Agriculture last week and earlier was approved by various other committees in the Senate and Assembly. The bill goes before the Assembly Appropriations Committee and a potential floor vote in August. Approval there would take it back to the Senate for a concurrence vote and a potential trip to the governor's desk.

Kings County was included in the list because local farmers have expressed interest, according to Leno's office. Most if not all of that interest has come from Charles Meyer, a Stratford farmer who has for years been a vocal advocate for industrial hemp.

The Kings County Farm Bureau has declined to take a position on the bill.

"We decided to stay neutral on the situation," said Michele Costa, Kings County Farm Bureau executive director. "We didn't really think it would affect us."

The bill clarifies that industrial hemp is separate and distinct from forms of Cannabis used to produce marijuana. Industrial hemp was grown in California up until shortly after World War II. Industrial hemp is the non-psychoactive, low-THC, oilseed and fiber varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant.

Leno said he introduced the bill earlier this year because he believes that hemp farming will help revitalize California's economy.

"The time is long overdue for California farmers to be allowed to grow this sustainable and profitable crop once again. [It] would create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers throughout the state," he said in a statement released by his office.

A variety of products are made from industrial hemp, including food and natural body-care products, as well as eco-friendly clothing.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has previously vetoed similar bills to legalize industrial hemp in California.

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