Washington, D.C.—A bill was introduced to legalize the production of industrial hemp in the United States by a group of Senators in February.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 would remove the federal restriction on the domestication of industrial hemp; meanwhile, Kentucky lawmakers sought to set up a licensing program for hemp growing in their state, ahead of the potential lifting of the federal ban.

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the bill, which would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substances list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Industrial hemp would then be defined as a non-drug if it contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Farmers in states that currently have licensing programs for hemp growing have technically needed to apply for a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to grow the controversial crop. Kentucky lawmakers say they will go this route if the federal bill fails. The waiver process has meant an effective ban on the industry, and imported hemp has been subject to a zero-tolerance policy in terms of THC content. Kentucky and other states are hopeful that lifting the federal ban could produce jobs in their states. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world to ban hemp.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2013 (online 3/1/13)