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Bipartisan hemp legislation introduced in Wisconsin

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Bipartisan hemp legislation was recently introduced in the Wisconsin legislature with little fanfare. Assembly Bill 638 was introduced January 21, 2014 and referred to the Assembly Committee on Consumer Protection..

AB638 is sponsored by Representatives Amy Sue Vruwink (D-Milladore), Chris Taylor (D-Madison), Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), Nick Milroy (D-Superior), Janet Bewley(D-Ashland), Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), Brett Hulsey (D-Madison), Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie), Mandy Wright (D-Wausau), Robb Kahl (D-Monona), Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) and Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), cosponsored by Senators Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).

Schultz, a veteran Senator and previous hemp bill sponsor, recently announced he will not be seeking reelection in Nov. 2014 due to the growing partisan chasm in Wisconsin politics.

Here's the Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau of AB638:

"Current law places various restrictions on the possession, manufacture, and delivery of controlled substances. One such controlled substance is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), including THC contained in or obtained from marijuana. The controlled substances law defines marijuana as all parts of plants of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not, and most derivatives or preparations of the plants (though it does not include, for instance, fiber produced from the stalks or oil made from the seeds of the plants). THC is currently placed in the most restrictive category of controlled substances: it may not be prescribed for medical use and may be manufactured and possessed only for particular purposes (such as research) under special permits.

This bill requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to issue licenses that authorize the growing and processing of industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa with no more than 0.3 percent THC. The bill requires an applicant for a license to provide a legal description of the land on which industrial hemp will be grown or processed and to pay a fee for the license. It also requires DATCP to obtain a criminal history search from the state Department of Justice for each applicant and prohibits DATCP from issuing a license to a person if the criminal history search shows the person has been convicted of violating the controlled substances law. The bill requires reporting by a person with an industrial hemp license, including reporting all sales of industrial hemp. The bill also requires DATCP to promulgate rules for the administration of the licensing law. This bill creates an exemption from the controlled substances law for growing or processing industrial hemp in conformity with a license issued by DATCP.

Growing and possessing the plant Cannabis is also prohibited by federal law, except with a permit issued by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. This bill does not change federal law. For further information see the state fiscal estimate, which will be printed as an appendix to this bill."

The federal farm bill, which passed the House of Representatives Jan. 29, and is on its way to the US Senate, contains provisions which would authorize colleges and universities to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in states that permit growth and cultivation of the plant. Eleven states currently have such laws: Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

Perhaps Wisconsin may find itself on that list in the next few years and will be able to revive the state's hemp industry, which last saw a crop in 1957.



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