Mary Franson, Phyllis Kahn introduce bill to legalize industrial hemp production

Mary Franson, Phyllis Kahn introduce bill to legalize industrial hemp production
hemp image via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) and Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) teamed up to introduce a bill that would develop and regulate industrial hemp production in Minnesota.

As it stands now, hemp -- marijuana's big, non-psychoactive sister  -- is banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a controlled substance. But some states, notably North Dakota, have thumbed their noses at the feds and passed laws to license an industry, though they (mostly) continue to wait for a green light to actually grow the stuff.

If Franson and Kahn get their way, Minnesota will be next.

See Also:
- Agriculture: Hemp Jive
- From the archives: High Expectations: Paranoia causes the Legislature to do an about-face on industrial hemp production
- Mary Franson wins recount in belated MNGOP election night success story

Like marijuana, hemp is part of the Cannabis family, but lacks enough THC -- the active ingredient in pot -- to induce the same effects. Supporters of a hemp industry argue that the fast-growing plant is useful for anything from rope to paper to building material. Opponents, however, say that the plants are so similar that legalizing one would make the other harder to regulate too.

Franson and Kahn's bill lays the framework for a hemp industry that could kick into gear once the U.S. government okays it. It also provides some useful definitions.

"Industrial hemp," the bill explains, "means all parts and varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa L. containing no greater than three-tenths of one percent" THC.

Marijuana, meanwhile, would continue to be illegal, and the bill takes pains to clarify that "marijuana does not include industrial hemp," and that counties would still be authorized to spray or otherwise kill wild, non-industry-licensed plants.

The Minnesota representatives are in good company on a national level. Just last week, U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill to legalize hemp federally. He earned vocal support from fellow-Sen. Rand Paul, who testified in favor of the bill while wearing a hemp shirt -- that he had to buy in Canada.

Mary Franson also has an affinity for products made from the plant. During the last effort to authorize a hemp industry in Minnesota, last March, Franson testified while holding up a bottle of hemp lotion.

"One of the favorite lotions that I have is made out of hemp," she explained, according to the blog Capitol Chatter.

That effort, which came after Kahn added a controversial legalization amendment to an otherwise-routine farm bill, failed. Now that there's a more liberal group of legislators running things, though, Minnesota just might reverse last year's stance.

"They're looking for a more robust discussion about some of the benefits industrial hemp can offer Minnesota," Carmen Mayo, Franson's legislative assistant, told City Pages.

For more details on Kahn and Franson's bill, here's the full text. And the SF Weekly offers a guide to how hemp is "the only commodity legal in the United States to import, sell, and possess, but not grow."

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