Legislature approves Lauwers hemp bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Legislature on Wednesday passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Dan Lauwers that would allow farmers in the state to grow hemp for commercial purposes.

Senate Bill 850 would create the Industrial Hemp Growers Act and establish a state-operated program for industrial hemp.

“Hemp is best known for CBD oil, but also produces fibers used in fabrics, textiles, yarns, paper, home furnishings and a number of other objects,” said Lauwers, R-Brockway Township. “While it is a variety of the the same plant species as marijuana, it contains almost none of marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC, and has long been cultivated for non-drug use. Michigan farmers will benefit greatly from being able to grow hemp.”

The 2014 federal Farm Bill included a provision that in states where it is legally authorized, institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture could grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research as an agricultural commodity.

With the passage of the 2018 federal Farm Bill, industrial hemp became legal under United States Department of Agriculture oversight.

While the USDA worked to create rules for industrial hemp, states were allowed to use the authority granted under the 2014 Farm Bill to create pilot programs. Michigan passed a law in 2018 to allow the commercial farming and processing of industrial hemp under a licensing and registration program for hemp growers and processors.

“I always found it ironic that the state of Michigan required me to use a hemp rope on the hand operated manlifts of the grain elevator but prohibited us from producing hemp to produce such a rope,” Lauwers said.

On Oct. 31, 2019, the USDA published its “Final Interim Rules” establishing the United States Domestic Hemp Production Program. The program has a compliance date of Oct. 31, 2020, at which time all states seeking to administer a hemp program must have an approved state plan.

Lauwers’ legislation creates a state regulated program for industrial hemp under the USDA interim final rules and requires reporting to the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Michigan’s pilot program for industrial hemp has been a great success,” Lauwers said. “There is increasing interest in this crop in a wide variety of sectors.”

SB 850 now heads to the governor to be signed into law.

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