Industrial Hemp Development Act: MN House approves pilot program

In a small but tangible step towards rebuilding Minnesota's once-formidable hemp industry, the Minnesota House of Representatives authorized a limited pilot program, the Industrial Hemp Development Act on an 89-37 vote with bipartisan support. Supporters of expanded availability of cannabis are encourage to contact their senators and urge support for this bill, along with wider farmer access and general legalization for responsible adult use.

The full House voted last Monday to allow farmers to cultivate non-psychoactive cannabis (negligible THC content), under a limited program controlled by the commissioner of agriculture (full text here). The measure is included in the omnibus agriculture policy and finance bill, HF1437, one of several large bills the Legislature passes every year or two. [Update 5/9: Good news: a similar program is included in the Senate agriculture omnibus and apparently Gov. Dayton has indicated he will sign off on the program, according to a knowledgeable source.]

A bipartisan coalition including Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis), a stalwart supporter of full legalization, and Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), who does not support personal use or medical cannabis, as well as Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) pushed industrial hemp for economic development this year. Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center), law enforcement lobby ringleader, laid on the fearsauce as always.

In 2014 Franson faced a GOP primary challenger who accused her of going soft in the glorious war on drugs, as noted in our 2014 voter guide. Grumpycat drug warrior Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Karlstad) directly intervened to try and defeat hemp backer Franson. She politely dropped off some fine hemp products at Ingebrigtsen's desk and tweeted it. Franson to her credit resisted drug warrior pressure and instead listened to local farmers, who want to work with a crop they know can provide jobs and economic stability, as well as cover and food for birds. [See Bluestem Prairie: Grumpy cat Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen still grumpy about industrial hemp's infernal roots in Hell, April 2015]

Under Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a similar industrial hemp program was approved in the DFL-controlled House, with Agriculture committee chair at the time, former Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) indicating that both Republicans and Democrats in 'ag world' supported hemp. Unfortunately, in conference committee (where House and Senate differences get resolved at end of session) the measure got pulled under pressure from former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Legislators deleted the program rather than get their omnibus bill vetoed.

For the better part of a century, the chemical industry and "Big Paper" (including 'Citizen Kane' himself, Randolph Hearst) have managed to block cheaper and more environmentally friendly hemp from undercutting their wood pulp industry. Canadian farmers export hemp to the United States, which has created political consensus among farmers in the Upper Midwest that it's finally time to reboot hemp. Importantly, the legislature would recognize that hemp can play an important role in Minnesota's economy.

MN NORML supports responsible adult use of cannabis, and our members have long been leading the way in calling attention to the economic potential of industrial hemp to create truly 'green jobs'. A limited industrial pilot program will introduce millions of Minnesotans to this hopeful new future. While the other very limited medical cannabis program starts this summer as well, there will be small but tangible policy shifts which we can build upon, until the punishing legacy of prohibition is finally reversed in our state once and for all.

This policy also helps increase pressure in US Congress to expand America's industrial hemp prospects, which will in turn tug America slightly towards general legalization and accepting the wishes of more and more states to dump prohibition.

To introduce the topic, in 1942 the US Government's World War II-era propaganda film Hemp for Victory shows the scale of the industry that was soon crushed:

Here are some points you can please share with your senators, courtesy of national NORML:

Permit Hemp Cultivation In Minnesota

Please support HF 1437, which redefines hemp as an agricultural commodity and authorizes its licensed cultivation is specific circumstances. House members overwhelmingly approved this proposal. I encourage the Senate to do likewise.

Last year, members of Congress approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant. Presently, 21 states have enacted legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. House File 1437 comports with this federal language.

In July 2013 federal report, entitled "Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity," the Congressional Research Service concluded that the hemp plant is "genetically different" from cultivated cannabis and acknowledged that its components may be utilized in the production of thousands of products, including paper, carpeting, home furnishing, construction and insulation materials, auto parts, animal bedding, body care products and nutritional supplements. It concluded, "[A] commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers." An economic analysis by the Hemp Industries Association reports that retail sales of hemp products in the United States total over $600 million annually.

It is time to allow Minnesota farmers the opportunity to explore this emerging market.

Full text of program inside the ominibus bill (minus some small references):

5.26   Sec. 37. [18K.01] SHORT TITLE.
5.27This chapter may be referred to as the "Industrial Hemp Development Act."

5.28    Sec. 38. [18K.02] FINDINGS; PURPOSE.
5.29The legislature finds that the development and use of industrial hemp can improve 
5.30the state's economy and agricultural vitality and the production of industrial hemp can 
6.1be regulated so as not to interfere with the strict regulation of controlled substances in 
6.2this state. The purpose of the Industrial Hemp Development Act is to promote the state 
6.3economy and agriculture industry by permitting the development of a regulated industrial 
6.4hemp industry while maintaining strict control of marijuana.

6.5    Sec. 39. [18K.03] DEFINITIONS.
6.6    Subdivision 1. Scope. The definitions in this section apply to this chapter.
6.7    Subd. 2. Commissioner. "Commissioner" means the commissioner of agriculture.
6.8    Subd. 3. Industrial hemp. "Industrial hemp" means the plant Cannabis sativa L. 
6.9and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol 
6.10concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Industrial hemp is not 
6.11marijuana as defined in section 152.01, subdivision 9.
6.12    Subd. 4. Marijuana. "Marijuana" has the meaning given in section 152.01, 
6.13subdivision 9.

6.15    Subdivision 1. Authorized activity. The commissioner may grow or cultivate 
6.16industrial hemp pursuant to a pilot program administered by the commissioner to study the 
6.17growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp. The commissioner may:
6.18(1) authorize institutions of higher education to grow or cultivate industrial hemp as 
6.19part of the commissioner's pilot program or as is necessary to perform other agricultural, 
6.20renewable energy, or academic research; and
6.21(2) contract with public or private entities for testing or other activities authorized 
6.22under this subdivision.
6.23Authorized activity under this section may include collecting seed from wild hemp sources.
6.24    Subd. 2. Site registration. Before growing or cultivating industrial hemp pursuant 
6.25to this section, each site must be registered with and certified by the commissioner. A 
6.26person must register each site annually in the form prescribed by the commissioner and 
6.27must pay the annual registration and certification fee established by the commissioner in 
6.28accordance with section 16A.1285, subdivision 2.
6.29    Subd. 3. Rulemaking. The commissioner may adopt rules that govern the pilot 
6.30program pursuant to this section and Public Law 113-79.

6.32Industrial hemp is an agricultural crop in this state. A person may possess, transport, 
6.33process, sell, or buy industrial hemp that is grown pursuant to this chapter.

7.1    Sec. 42. [18K.05] LICENSING.
7.2    Subdivision 1. Requirement; issuance; presumption. (a) A person must obtain a 
7.3license from the commissioner before growing industrial hemp for commercial purposes. 
7.4A person must apply to the commissioner in the form prescribed by the commissioner and 
7.5must pay the annual registration and inspection fee established by the commissioner in 
7.6accordance with section 16A.1285, subdivision 2. The license application must include 
7.7the name and address of the applicant and the legal description of the land area or areas 
7.8where industrial hemp will be grown by the applicant.
7.9(b) When an applicant has paid the fee and completed the application process to the 
7.10satisfaction of the commissioner, the commissioner must issue a license which is valid 
7.11until December 31 of the year of application.
7.12(c) A person licensed under this section is presumed to be growing industrial hemp 
7.13for commercial purposes.
7.14    Subd. 2. Background check; data classification. The commissioner must require 
7.15each first-time applicant for a license to submit to a background investigation conducted 
7.16by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as a condition of licensure. As part of the 
7.17background investigation, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension must conduct criminal 
7.18history checks of Minnesota records and is authorized to exchange fingerprints with the 
7.19United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of a 
7.20criminal background check of the national files. The cost of the investigation must be paid 
7.21by the applicant. Criminal history records provided to the commissioner under this section 
7.22must be treated as private data on individuals, as defined in section 13.02, subdivision 12.
7.23    Subd. 3. Federal requirements. The applicant must demonstrate to the satisfaction 
7.24of the commissioner that the applicant has complied with all applicable federal 
7.25requirements pertaining to the production, distribution, and sale of industrial hemp.

7.27(a) Annually, a licensee must file with the commissioner:
7.28(1) documentation demonstrating to the commissioner's satisfaction that the seeds 
7.29planted by the licensee are of a type and variety that contain no more than three-tenths of 
7.30one percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol; and
7.31(2) a copy of any contract to grow industrial hemp.
7.32(b) Within 30 days, a licensee must notify the commissioner of each sale or 
7.33distribution of industrial hemp grown by the licensee including, but not limited to, the 
7.34name and address of the person receiving the industrial hemp and the amount of industrial 
7.35hemp sold or distributed.

8.1    Sec. 44. [18K.07] RULEMAKING.
8.2(a) The commissioner shall adopt rules governing the production, testing, and 
8.3licensing of industrial hemp, including, but not limited to:
8.4(1) supervising and inspecting industrial hemp during its growth and harvest;
8.5(2) testing industrial hemp to determine delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol levels;
8.6(3) using the results of the background checks required under section 18K.05 to 
8.7approve or deny a license application; and
8.8(4) any other rule or procedure necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
8.9(b) Rules issued under this section must be consistent with federal law regarding 
8.10the production, distribution, and sale of industrial hemp.
8.11EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective the day after the federal government 
8.12authorizes the commercial production of industrial hemp in this country.

8.13    Sec. 45. [18K.08] FEES.
8.14Fees collected under this chapter must be credited to the industrial hemp account, 
8.15which is hereby established in the agricultural fund in the state treasury. Interest earned 
8.16in the account accrues to the account. Funds in the industrial hemp account are annually 
8.17appropriated to the commissioner to implement and enforce this chapter.

8.19It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for the possession of marijuana under 
8.20chapter 152 if:
8.21(1) the defendant possesses industrial hemp grown pursuant to this chapter; or
8.22(2) the defendant has a valid controlled substance registration from the United States 
8.23Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, if required under federal law."