The United States federal government may not be ready to sanction marijuana use, but a new agriculture bill is set to legalize preliminary stages of hemp production in states that allow the practice.
A new farm bill, passed by Congress on Tuesday, would allow universities and state agriculture departments to establish industrial hemp growing programs. If these research programs go well, they could pave the way for commercial hemp farming to become a reality.
Hemp is a plant in the same family as marijuana, though it lacks its cousin’s high levels of THC and is therefore much less potent. It’s used to create numerous products, including cooking oil, clothing, paper, and rope. According to the Associated Press, the US imported about $11.5 million in hemp products in 2011.
“This is big,” Eric Steenstra, president of advocacy group…
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