Growing Industrial Hemp is Now Legal in Pennsylvania

But not for everyone.

Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation on Wednesday that legalized the growth and production of industrial hemp – for some.

Hemp can now be grown for research purposes, meaning the law mostly applies to the Agriculture Department and colleges and universities. Through a pilot program, those who are registered can grow and market the product. The law’s newly created Hemp Research Board will oversee operations and monitor regulations and guidelines.

The legislation‘s sponsor, Representative Russ Diamond, said Pennsylvania was once a leading producer of industrial hemp. Hemp can be used for many purposes, including medicine, clothing, food and building materials.

While in some ways hemp is similar to marijuana (it also comes from the cannabis plant), it doesn’t have the same intoxicating effect because it contains lower levels of THC. Industrial hemp production was outlawed in 1973 with the Marijuana Tax Act, but the 2014 Federal Farm bill set up the platform for industrial hemp to be grown through state pilot programs.

The U.S. industrial hemp industry has been estimated at more than $500 million in annual retail sales, Governor Wolf said in a statement.

William Penn himself was an advocate of hemp growth, and in 1683, one of the first laws passed by the General Assembly in Pennsylvania was a law to encourage every farmer to grow hemp,” Wolf said in the statement. “Supporting this industry in Pennsylvania is a smart investment in the commonwealth’s economy.”

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