Pennsylvania considers allowing industrial hemp cultivation

    While Pennsylvania lawmakers consider legalizing marijuana for medical use, some are urging the commonwealth to allow at least one type of the crop for commercial use.

    Advocates view industrial hemp as a win-win, and foresee a whole new industry for Pennsylvania.

    Industrial hemp, a cousin of marijuana, can’t really be smoked. The substance is used in clothes, cars, and paper, among many other goods.

    Bills in the state Senate and House would legalize commercial harvesting of the crop, and legislators used a recent hearing to build the case for it.

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    Jonathan Miller with Kentucky’s Hemp Industry Council was once a lawmaker who thought it would be easy to vote against something associated with marijuana.

    But, he said, he did his research, and it paid off.

    “Traveling around the state, informing them about the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana, we were able to not only secure passage of industrial hemp in Kentucky, but overwhelmingly,” he said.

    In Pennsylvania, the two bills that would legalize and regulate growing industrial hemp are stuck in committee.

    However, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has said he wants the commonwealth to allow harvesting of the crop.

    State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, is sponsoring the measure requiring hemp harvesters to register with the Hemp Research Board within the state Department of Agriculture.

    “The time has come in Pennsylvania,” she said. “We all know … that this a crop that could be helpful. It’s not a silver bullet, not a panacea, but should be offered to our farmers. Let’s give them that opportunity.”

    Redding, who agreed that there is a lot of demand for industrial hemp, said a few states already have approved commercial growing.

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