New Jersey may allow farmers to grow industrial hemp

Industrial hemp is grown for its fiber and used to make rope and clothing. (Big Stock image)

Industrial hemp is grown for its fiber and used to make rope and clothing. (Big Stock image)

A bill advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would create a pilot program to study the cultivation of industrial hemp and licensing growers and distributors.

Hemp could be a viable agricultural crop in the state, said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.

“While hemp may be a cousin of marijuana, it has absolutely no psychotropic value. People use it in clothing, in rope, in food, in oils, shampoos,” said Gusciora,  D- Mercer.

The restrictions on hemp date from a time when it was misunderstood, said Sen. Declan O’Scanlon.

“I guess you could have hemp that has some level of THC, they’re all low, but there is a restriction here. You would have to test periodically to make sure you’re below 0.3 percent THC,” the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

“So there’s no incentive to grow this crop for THC,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “That just wouldn’t happen.”

O’Scanlon said 38 other states already have pilot programs to allow hemp cultivation.

“We’d be smart to get out ahead of at least the remaining states that haven’t done it yet and maybe learn from the ones that have,” he said. “We are the Garden State. We can probably do a better job farming this crop, like we do many other crops, than many other states … make more money and have our farmers benefit and our economy.”

The legislation could help farmers diversify their products, said Ed Wengryn with the New Jersey Farm Bureau.

“We think this could be a potentially more traditional cash crop in the way of corn, soybean, hay. It’s much more in line with what farmers actually produce in the field,” he said.

O’Scanlon is pushing for the bill’s enactment.

“It should move like a hot knife through butter because there is no downside, but this is Trenton,” he said. “Logic is not always the prevailing factor in what happens here or how quick it happens.”

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