Oregon: Senate Votes To Put Oregon In The Hemp Business
By Michelle Cole, The Oregonian
SALEM -- When the history of the 2009 Legislature is written, it may record that this was the year lawmakers put Oregon in the industrial hemp business.
The Senate voted 27-2 Friday to approve a bill that clears the way for hemp to be grown and processed in Oregon if and when the federal government gives growers a green light.
Senate Bill 676 still must pass in the House before the session ends later this month. But its sponsor, Sen. Floyd Prozanski, says he's convinced it will pass.
The bill would authorize the production, possession and commerce of industrial hemp and products. It would put the state Department of Agriculture in charge of regulating growers.
Industrial hemp is a cousin to marijuana. But it contains just trace amounts of THC, the psycho-active chemical in marijuana.
Hemp seeds are cultivated for food and other products in China, Canada and other countries. Hemp was grown in the United States until 1970, when it was redefined by the federal government as marijuana.
Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat, said he first learned about industrial hemp while campaigning in 1994. He's convinced it would be an economic boost for Oregon and has been pushing legislation to promote the industry since 1997.
Prozanski brought a variety of hemp products to the Senate floor Friday to illustrate his point, including hemp chocolate milk and hemp chips. He also waved a T-shirt that read: "Industrial hemp is rope. It's not dope."
"Senate Bill 676 will allow farmers to re-establish industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in Oregon," Prozanski said.
A couple of Republican senators who are also farmers voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood, groused that "this may be the only way we can pay the taxes you all have passed."
And Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, complained: "This may be the only crop left for me."
Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, had a question for Prozanski: Do they make a hemp brownie mix?
-- Michelle Cole; michellecole at news.oregonian.com
Related: Oregon: Senate Bill 676 Allows Growth, Sale Of Hemp For Industrial Uses