Pennsylvania Legalizes Industrial Hemp

You still need a permit to grow it, though.


Lesley L. / Flickr

Farmers and freedom lovers in the Keystone State have reason to celebrate: Pennsylvania legalized industrial hemp Wednesday.

The new law gives individuals the right to farm and sell the plant, but with some strings attached: Interested parties have to register through an agricultural pilot program and are subject to regulations proffered by a newly created Hemp Research Board.

The legislation also allows colleges and universities to produce hemp for research purposes.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement he believes legalizing the crop is a smart move that he expects to bring economic gains. The hemp plant can be used to make various products, including paper, clothing, food, and cosmetics.

"The U.S. industrial hemp industry has been estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales and is still growing," Wolf said. "Supporting this industry in Pennsylvania is a smart investment in the commonwealth's economy."

Hemp is not legal throughout the country. The plant—a different variety of the cannabis species—is indistinguishable in appearance from marijuana. Hemp plants contain much less of the psychoactive substance THC than pot plants do. But because of their similarities, hemp and marijuana have been lumped together by the federal government.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 prohibited both plants, which are categorized identically under the Controlled Substances Act. While that hasn't changed, universities and other institutions can now grow industrial hemp for research purposes in states where it is legal thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill. (As Baylen Linnekin wrote at the time, that was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise lousy law).

State Rep. Russ Diamond, who sponsored the Pennsylvania legislation, said in a press release that industrial hemp has been misidentified for years. "Industrial hemp is safely grown worldwide and used in a wide variety of consumer products, from automobile dashboards to clothing," he said. "It is not a drug and does not produce a high. Rather, it is an environmentally friendly, durable fiber with high profit margins."

A 2015 Congressional Research Service report found that while hemp production in the United States does face a series of obstacles—including the ever-present possibility of a crackdown by the Drug Enforcement Agency—growing demand for hemp-based products makes it a potentially valuable crop for farmers.

In addition to industrial hemp, Pennsylvania earlier this year legalized medical marijuana. You can read more about that here.

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  1. Fist! I know you stole our PM links!


    1. Why would I steal them? I won them.

  2. I have literally never been prouder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Woody Harrelson, you’re welcome here anytime!

  3. So, how long before a DEA agent uses the positive results of a field test on the hemp products to say “Everything here is subject to asset forfeiture”?

    1. Can’t they already do that with pretty much anything?

  4. I believe you can’t get high off industrial hemp.

    1. If someone engineers a variant that you can get high from, will all the lefties will stop bitching about GMOs and start professing their love for Monsanto?

      1. Excellent question. I suppose if you do it through ‘selective breeding’ they’d be ok with it.

      2. Someone already has. It’s called weed.

    2. I think you can if you have enough of the whole plant. I think that all Cannabis sativa contains some THC.

      1. Everything I’ve ever read suggests that the typical industrial hemp, while in the same family as good old marijuana, contains a THC level so low there’s no practical amount you could smoke that would get you high.

        Which of course makes its illegality utterly puzzling.

        1. Utterly puzzling? Why? Any examination of Prohibitions throughout history shows that Prohibitionists and suchlike buttinskis have nothing remotely resembling a sense of proportion or anything that could reasonably be called common sense.

          Just look at the way the anti-smoker Crusade is attacking vape-ing.

        2. Well, no. You’d have to make some kind of extract and probably do some chemistry. But you could do it with enough effort.

  5. What’s the next big thing after hemp? Maybe jute or Jerusalem Artichokes.

    1. Hemp actually is really good stuff. It’s easy on the soil, it’s better than wood fiber for paper in many ways, makes good, tough textiles and the seeds and seed oil are not bad as food.

      It’s not going to save the world or something, but it is something that people would grow on a large scale if it weren’t legally complicated.

  6. The plant?a different variety of the cannabis species?is indistinguishable in appearance from marijuana.


    1. This, especially mature females.

    2. Yeah, maybe the young plants are hard to distinguish. But when they start to flower.

  7. Have you ever priced hemp t-shirts? Holy shit, farming that stuff might be a gold mine.

    1. While it’s still heavily restricted, anyway. If there were a strong domestic hemp production, it would be cheaper than cotton.

  8. “Pennsylvania Legalizes Industrial Hemp. You still need a permit to grow it, though.”

    Is anything really “legal” if you have to have a permit? Isn’t that just a different way of saying, “this stuff is illegal, but we’ll let you do it if you come into the office and buy this paper that authorizes you to do it, and only under certain conditions”?

    1. It’s a good question. I suppose distinctions have to be made for things that you can do with a permit, and things there’s no permit for and are illegal.

      I like to call it “taxed and regulated”.

    2. I would logically call something like this “permitted”. Hence the ‘permit’ in the equation.

    3. we’ll let you do it if you come into the office and buy this paper that authorizes you to do it, and only under certain conditions”

      the state just needs to wet it’s beak.

    4. Conditionally Legal


      Mostly Illegal

    5. And it should say that it legalized (or permitted or whatever) growing it. Hemp fiber is already legal.

    6. This type of legalization is the “hey, we already legalized it, you insane libertarians! Fuck off if you think you’re getting anything else” compromise. It’s the end of reform, not the beginning.

      See: 21st Amendment.

    7. “Is anything really “legal” if you have to have a permit?”

      Not really, no. Any permit or license is a ban wrapped in a bureaucracy. Every permit or license rests on a statute that says “This is illegal unless you have a permit/license”.

    8. Then you’d have to ask whether driving is legal, selling stuff is legal, etc.

  9. Hemp and marijuana are grown in radically different ways just like flax for seeds and flax for fiber are. When you plant for fiber you plant them as close together as possible so the plant grows tall and straight with few branches. For seeds on flax you plant them well spaced so they get very bushy for maximum flowers and seeds. With Marijuana you want maximum flowers but no seeds so you have to get them damn males out ASAP.

  10. I used to have probably 5 acres of feral hemp on my property in Wisconsin. That stuff was ubiquitous around there, due to the massive plantings of hemp during the wars. Pretty scrawny plants, with the most enticing purple buds that actually contained zero (0) entertaining chemicals.

    I had a buddy in the DNR who said they were constantly finding huge wild plantings of the stuff. They didn’t even bother with reporting it to anyone.

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