HARRISBURG – Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) introduced legislation that would create an agricultural pilot program in Pennsylvania for industrial hemp research. Today, that legislation unanimously passed the Pennsylvania House.
The bill is now heading to the Senate for further consideration.
Diamond’s proposal (House Bill 967) would permit industrial hemp to be grown or cultivated in special research and development programs administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the state’s institutions of higher learning.
“We put a lot of effort into educating other legislators about the usefulness of this crop and its positive economic and environmental promises for Pennsylvania,” said Diamond. “While the passage of House Bill 967 is cause for some celebration, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to get the Senate to concur, the governor to sign it into law, and to create a hemp industry from scratch. This is the very first step on what I hope to be very long and prosperous journey for the people of this Commonwealth.”
Pennsylvania once led the nation in industrial hemp production. The plant was widely grown for use in many products.
In an attempt to fight marijuana use, the federal government outlawed industrial hemp in the 1930s, identifying it as an intoxicating plant.
After numerous studies demonstrated the safety of industrial hemp, and to remedy the growing trade imbalance occurring from the importation of hemp-containing merchandise, the 2014 federal Farm Bill allowed industrial hemp to be grown in pilot programs reserved for universities and state departments of agricultural.
Diamond’s bill would bring Pennsylvania law into line with the new federal guidelines, allowing the state to reap the economic benefits as restrictions continue to be lifted.