Alabama Legislature approves bills legalizing industrial hemp

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The Alabama Senate overwhelmingly passed SB347 Tuesday evening, a bill legalizing the research and regulation of industrial hemp—the non-intoxicating version of the cannabis plant. A similar, but not identical, bill passed the Alabama House earlier in the day.

“There is enormous economic potential for the use of industrial hemp, which can be used in the production of insulation materials, yarns, textiles, and auto parts,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Bussman, a  Cullman Republican.

“This proposal will allow our colleges and universities to investigate industrial hemp’s full potential. I believe industrial hemp could be a huge benefit to our Alabama’s agriculture, but I’m glad we’re taking this initial step approving research before we consider legalization for economic production,”

Should either house adopt the other’s version of the bill, and it is signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama will become the 29th state to legalize the cash crop. 

The bills would allow the state’s colleges and universities to research the plant and its properties, and allow the Department of Agriculture and Industries to license growers in the state.

Any revenues from the licensing and taxing of industrial hemp would be earmarked for the Department of Agriculture.

The Department’s commissioner, John McMillan, celebrated the bill’s passage in a press release.  “I want to commend Senator Bussman for his leadership on this issue and for his willingness to seek alternative cash crops for Alabama farmers,” said McMillan. “We look forward to the potential research opportunities this legislation provides our state institutions of higher education.”

In their support of the bill, Sen. Bussman and the House version’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Johnson, cited a white paper written by Auburn University detailing the plant’s uses in the creation of food, fuel, in textiles, and other raw materials.

The white paper also found the crop grows well in all of the Yellowhammer State’s soils in climates, and requires the use of few pesticides or fertilizers, making it an attractive and inexpensive commodity for Alabama’s many farmers.

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