, , , , ,

GOP Lawmakers Make The Case For Industrial Hemp

Wisconsin Was A Leading Producer Of Hemp During World War II

Industrial hemp
Dylan Lovan/AP Photo

A legislative committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would allow farmers in Wisconsin to grow hemp.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism held the hearing on the Farm Freedom Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, and Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum.

The bill would require anyone who wants to grow hemp to get a state license. People with drug convictions wouldn’t be eligible for licenses. Plants couldn’t contain more than 1 percent THC, marijuana’s active ingredient.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

At a news conference, Kremer said hemp has a wide range of industrial and nutritional uses.

“It is high time that we reintroduce a product that has the potential to grow our ag industry, create new high-tech careers, and allow Wisconsin to be a lead manufacturer of hemp products in the Midwest and nationwide,” Kremer said.

Wisconsin was a leading producer of hemp during World War II. In 1970, the federal government outlawed hemp because of its genetic similarity to marijuana.

The federal government relaxed the prohibition of hemp in 2014. Since then, 31 states have taken steps to allow farmers to grow it.

At the news conference, Katie Moyer, a hemp farmer in Kentucky, said because of cross-pollination, marijuana crops would be ruined if they were grown next to hemp, because their seeds would produce plants without significant amounts of THC.

“For anybody who knows a thing or two about cannabis, there really isn’t any reason to try to plant marijuana in a hemp field,” Moyer said.

The committee also heard from Ken Anderson, founder of Legacy Hemp, a company in Prescott, Wisconsin, that produces hemp seeds and products in four other states.

“I’m excited that Wisconsin is getting on board with hemp production,” Anderson said. “If this bill passes, my company is ready, willing and able to bring processing and seed production to this state next year.”

Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and Kara O’Connor of the Wisconsin Farmers Union also spoke in favor of the bill.

No groups have registered against the bill, according to The Associated Press.

“The message from a united agriculture community is this: We’ve led the nation in hemp production in the past. It’s time for Wisconsin to lead again,” Testin said.

Testin aide Jeff Schultz handed out edible hemp bars to agriculture committee members before the hearing. The panel wasn’t expected to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 4:22 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, with original reporting from WPR.