Ohio Senate votes unanimously to legalize hemp

Ohio Senate

Ohio Senate votes unanimously to legalize hemp

First it was legalizing medical marijuana, and now Ohio lawmakers are now moving to create a statewide industrial hemp program.

The Ohio Senate voted unanimously Thursday to decriminalize hemp and hemp products, including CBD (cannabidiol) oil, and set up a new licensing, cultivation and processing program monitored by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The product has a variety of uses as food, fuel, fiber and medicine.

The bill moved with the backing of the Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio’s major business advocates, along with newer groups, such as the Ohio Hemp Association.

“I can tell you first hand, farmers are excited at the opportunity to again grow hemp legally in our state,” said Tony Seegers, director of state policy for the Farm Bureau. “While I do not have estimates, it is believed that hemp cultivation and production will benefit Ohio’s farm economy and the economy overall.”

Ohio is free to open the state to legal hemp production under the 2018 federal Farm Bill, signed into law in December. It legalized hemp under certain conditions, making it an agricultural commodity similar to corn and soybeans, and allowing states to regulate production of the product in accordance with federal law.

A number of states have already acted on hemp’s change in legal status, or previously enacted hemp pilot programs, bill supporters said. Hemp products are prohibited under current Ohio law because they come from the same plant as marijuana. The state Pharmacy Board last August said that CBD could be sold through the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Unlike many other states, Ohio does not have a pilot program or a state-based program to pursue the cultivation of hemp,” said Tom Haren, executive vice president of the Ohio Hemp Association. “However, Ohio is a leader in growing agricultural commodities, processing, manufacturing, and distributing.”

The United States currently gets a majority of its hemp from foreign sources, but the U.S. industry, Haren said, grew to $820 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $1.9 billion by 2022.

“Ohio is in a position to help the U.S. become the No. 1 exporter,” Haren said, noting the state’s logistical advantages, including air cargo terminals and large trucking industry.

Senate Bill 57 now moves to the House.

“It is important to understand that hemp is not marijuana, it is much more versatile and lacks an appreciable amount of THC to cause any psychotropic effects,” said Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City. “This is an incredible opportunity for our farmers to help diversify their crops by allowing them to grow legal hemp.”

Originally posted by Jim Siegel at The Columbus Dispatch on Mar 28, 2019.
Image courtesy Matt Born, StarNews Photo.

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