A law that legalizes the cultivation of hemp by anyone in Rhode Island has gone into effect.
A new law that legalizes the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Rhode Island for clothing, oil, food, fuel and other commercial products went into effect at the first of the year. Signed into law July 2016 by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, House Bill 8232 ensures that hemp is treated as an agricultural crop subject to regulation by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.
Originally introduced by a coalition of five Democrats to allow state-licensed representatives of the Narragansett Indian Tribe to produce and commercially trade hemp, the bill was eventually amended by the House Committee of Health Education and Welfare to apply to everyone. Under the law, hemp can also be grown by universities for educational and research purposes.
Industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa L. plant species. The crop, harvested for its seeds and stalk, is one of the oldest domesticated crops in history. The plant can be used to produce thousands of products, including hemp oil supplements, food, clothing, paper, biofuel, building materials and cordage.
While hemp has historic significance and was at one time a prominent crop in the United States, it became too expensive to grow following the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, and then was prohibited by the passing of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. In 2014, however, President Barack Obama signed into law the Farm Bill, which allows state departments of agriculture and higher education institutes to grow the crop for research and pilot program purposes. It remains legal to import hemp from abroad.
Rhode Island individuals, firms and corporations interested in cultivating hemp must first apply for a growing license through the Department of Business Regulation. The license costs $2,500 and remains valid for three years.
The US is the only developed nation that hasn’t established industrial hemp as an agricultural crop for economic purposes, according to a Congressional Research Service report. This is despite that the market for national hemp sales in 2015 reached $573 million and that the demand for industrial hemp in America has shown to be growing “dramatically.”
Since the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, at least 30 states have approved legislation related to industrial hemp. Close to 10,000 acres of hemp were cultivated through research programs in 2016, and according to the Daily Camera, a majority of the agricultural hemp is being grown in Colorado, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The industrial hemp markets in New York and Oregon have been growing and researchers from Virginia Tech in Virginia and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Nebraska just recently planted their very first crops of hemp for research. Pennsylvania is currently accepting applications for its recently launched program, and Virginia will grow its first hemp since the 1930s this year.
Rhode Island is also one of the three states we believe could become the next to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use.
Learn more about the healing effects of hemp by visiting our article, “Healing With Hemp: Heal For You, Health for the Planet.”