With the exception of Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay, cultivation of marijuana for general use is illegal pretty much everywhere on Earth. That includes Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine. Yet all of those countries allow cultivation of industrial hemp, a nonpsychoactive version of cannabis used in textiles, cosmetics, food products, fuel, and building materials. According to the Hemp Industries Association, the United States is "the only industrialized nation in the world" that has not managed to reconcile these two policies—an impossible feat, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It looks like the U.S. will soon lose that dubious distinction. The farm bill approved by the House yesterday included a provision allowing pilot hemp cultivation projects in 10 states.
"This is big," Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra told the Associated Press. "We've been pushing for this a long time." The hemp provision, which allows cultivation by colleges, universities, and state agriculture departments for research purposes, was introduced in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). Its main champion in the Senate, which is expected to pass the farm bill as soon as next week, was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who took up the cause of farmers in his state who see hemp as a potentially lucrative business. "In 2011," A.P. notes, "the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products, up from $1.4 million in 2000."
The 10 states that notionally allow hemp cultivation are Colorado, Washington, California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia. With the exception of an experiment in Hawaii that was abandoned due to DEA resistance, hemp has been produced only in Colorado, where Amendment 64 legalized it along with marijuana. Although the Colorado Department of Agriculture has not gotten around to awarding hemp cultivation licenses yet, a few farmers went ahead and planted crops anyway. Last October, Baca County farmer Ryan Loflin harvested the country's first quasi-legal hemp crop since the late 1940s.