Pennsylvania has taken another step forward in legitimizing the production of Cannabis. In this instance, it’s industrial hemp. On July 19, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed a new law providing for industrial hemp research. House Bill No. 967, now Act 92 was approved by Governor Wolf and amends Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for industrial hemp research; imposing powers and duties on the Department of Agriculture and the Legislative Reference Bureau; and imposing civil and criminal penalties.
Industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. Industrial hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. Industrial hemp can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
Industrial hemp grows in a variety of climates and soil types, is naturally resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced allowing it to outcompete most weeds. Industrial hemp is a natural substitute for cotton and wood fiber.
Under the law “Industrial hemp” is define as “the plant Cannabis sativa L and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 24 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3% on a 25 dry-weight basis. Both recreational marijuana and industrial hemp are derived from the Cannabis sativa plant but they are distinct strains with unique biochemical compositions and uses. Industrial hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects. Industrial hemp has absolutely no value as a recreational drug.
“William Penn himself was an advocate of hemp growth, and in 1683, one of the first laws passed by the General Assembly in Pennsylvania was a law to encourage every farmer to grow hemp,” said Governor Wolf.
The new law authorizes industrial hemp to be grown or cultivated by the Department of Agriculture or an institution of higher education for the purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program. The law authorizes the Department and/or institutions of higher education to begin cultivating hemp for research purposes, either by themselves or via independent contractors.
The new law is another step forward in creating new business opportunities for cannabis growers in Pennsylvania.