Sen Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) and Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moutlon), alongside Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan, held a news conference Wednesday to introduce legislation aimed at legalizing industrial hemp in the state.
The legislation would allow Alabama colleges and the Department of Agriculture to grow and research hemp, the nonintoxicating strand of marijuana, making the state the 29th to do so.
“The federal government has approved the production of industrial hemp and 28 states have already green-lighted pilot programs or production,” Bussman remarked in a news release. “This bill would allow the Agriculture Department and our colleges and universities to investigate the full uses of industrial hemp, which we already know can be used in the production of insulation materials, yarns, textiles, and even auto parts.”
Auburn University conducted a study last year, which found that Alabama’s climate and soil is ideal for growing the endurable plant and the Hemp Industries Association found that retail values of hemp came it at about $620 million in 2014.
“If this is a viable and productive crop in other states, we owe it to Alabama farmers to at least research the economic opportunities in our own backyard,” Johnson said in the release. “This legislation simply allows our colleges, universities, and the Department of Agriculture to evaluate whether industrial hemp is a good fit for Alabama.”
Hemp can be used for a variety of purposes, including paper, fabrics, biofuels, construction materials, plastic composites and more. Hemp requires no pesticides and less water than conventional crops. Further, it breathes CO2, detoxifies soil and prevents soil erosion.