Maryland house passes hemp bill; Senate OK awaits
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 13, 2018) — The Maryland Department of Agriculture could soon launch an industrial hemp pilot program if the state legislature passes a bill under consideration in the Senate.
House bill 698 would allow the state department or a partnering university or college to research all aspects of the controversial crop, including cultivation, harvesting, processing and marketing.
The program could also contract with farmers to produce hemp on certified fields.
The House passed the bill 136-1 on March 1, and it was passed to the Senate and referred to the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee the next day.
A similar bill in the Senate is scheduled for Tuesday, March 13.
The university, the state department or an independent lab registered with Maryland’s cannabis commission would monitor growers to make sure all cultivated crops met the definition of industrial hemp.
The program would also be able to sell and market its hemp in Maryland and in other states where it is legal.
Under the bill, the state would spend about $118,000 in fiscal year 2019 to hire an agronomist to manage the program, pay for a vehicle and cover other operating expenses.
At least 27 other states have passed laws creating or allowing the establishment of hemp pilot programs, according to a state analysis. Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, D-Montgomery County, a frequent advocate for hemp legalization in the state, sponsored the House bill.
Industrial hemp continues to be controversial in some corners due to its association with marijuana, though hemp has low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the mind-altering compound in marijuana.
It can be used in the production of fiber, fuel, food or medicine, and 18 states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, have legalized hemp cultivation.
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