By Pete Kasperowicz
The House on Thursday morning approved a bipartisan amendment to the farm bill that would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate hemp for agricultural or academic research.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and other sponsors of the bill said hemp is used industrially around the world, and can be found in thousands of products, many of which are sold in the United States. Hemp is a variation of the cannabis plant that has far lower concentrations of the psychoactive compounds found in marijuana.
“Yet somehow, it’s caught up in a completely unrelated drug war that prevents American farmers from growing this crop and forces us to import it from other countries,” Polis said Wednesday. “Our institutions of higher education can’t even grow or cultivate hemp for research purposes.”
Polis said his amendment would only take effect in states that have authorized hemp cultivation, and stressed that “hemp is not marijuana.”
An opponent of his language, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), said hemp production has been limited because it is difficult to distinguish it from the marijuana plant. “Even though the gentleman says hemp is not marijuana, I don’t know if one can tell the difference when it’s planted row by row out in the field,” King said.
Late Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said there has been some success splicing a gene into hemp plants that allow them to emit a fluorescent glow, making it easier to differentiate between it and marijuana.
“So now the hemp that grows is fluorescent, and so you can clearly tell the difference between the hemp and the marijuana,” Peterson said. “So we have solved that problem through research.”