"We have the right climate to grow hemp and it's going to bring jobs here. Hemp has dozens of uses. This is about freedom, the freedom to grow hemp. Something that has been used for hundreds of years," said Rep. Shea (R).
Currently, the United States does not allow the production of industrial hemp yet is a leading importer of hemp products. U.S. retail sales of imported hemp products in 2011 were valued at over $452 million according to a Hemp Industries Association report. Hemp is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S. despite it containing almost no THC, the prime ingredient in marijuana. It should be noted recreational use of marijuana was approved just last year in Washington state.
"This is going to create a new agricultural industry in our state. For one, we import a lot of our sisal twine from Indonesia and places overseas to tie up our vineyards and hop fields. If we grow hemp ourselves, we can supply our own twine,” Shea added.
Hemp’s other uses include paper, fabric, textiles, rope and even fuel, to name a few.
The legislation would also permit Washington State University to undertake research of industrial hemp production to assess optimum soils, growing conditions, analysis of minimum THC levels obtainable in industrial hemp production and analysis of market economic conditions affecting the development of an industrial hemp industry in the state. If accepted, The Department of Agriculture Director and Washington State University will cooperatively seek funds from both public and private sources to fund the research.
Travis Couture, candidate for State Senate in the 35th Legislative District had this to say about H.B. 1888:
"Currently we import all hemp products from Canada where it is legal. Hemp is easy to grow and produce, and it is a great product. It has a wide variety of uses from food to clothing, and you would have to smoke a joint the size of a phone pole to get high off of it. Let’s pass this bill and let farmers grow hemp so they can create thousands of jobs in Washington state and lead the nation in hemp exports."
Kentucky's State Senate Agriculture Committee voted Monday to approve similar legislation that could allow the creation of a legal hemp industry in the state. Most vocal for the legislation was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R), who wore a hemp shirt as he gave testimony to explain his support. "It's a crop that's legal everywhere else in the world except the United States," Paul said.