Arizona lawmakers may form a committee to study hemp as a new major crop in the state.
Hemp growing long has been illegal under federal law due to its relation to marijuana plants, even though you can't get high from hemp. As Congress eases up on hemp restrictions, and could perhaps legalize hemp farming, some lawmakers want to see if Arizona could benefit.
"Pinal, Cochise, Greenlee, Graham, and Coconino counties could keep agriculture alive with hemp," Democratic Senator Lynne Pancrazi told a Senate committee. "It takes one-third less water than cotton."
Pancrazi is proposing the formation of a committee that would study the potential of economic opportunities in Arizona with legalized hemp farming.
Pancrazi said the bill would allow Arizona to "be prepared for when hemp becomes a production crop."
"Arizona is a pretty conservative state, so we may not want to be part of the hemp movement like [other] states are, but we ought to study it," Pancrazi said. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have implemented laws calling for such studies.
Although it seems like a small step, Arizona lawmakers last year quickly rejected a proposal to legalize hemp farming in the state. Despite the federal ban, plus most state bans, it remains legal to import hemp products from other countries. And there are a whole lot of hemp-based products, from foods, to paper, to herbicide, and much more.
This bill is scheduled for a vote before the full Senate this afternoon.
Although it was passed by the Senate's Natural Resources Committee last month, there was a bit of opposition.
"When i was in the house back in the '90s a young man came in . . . promoting the growth of hemp," explained Republican Senator David Farnsworth. "When we finished that discussion he launched right into the legalization of marijuana. Of course we know there's that line in-between, but it would be really nice if we could draw a firm line."
Farnsworth was the only member of the seven-member committee to vote against it.
The Arizona Farm Bureau is also on board with the creation of this hemp study committee, which would report back to lawmakers next year.
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UPDATE March 6: The Senate approved the bill.
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