Update 6/21/2013: Well, it seems the small success that hemp advocates saw yesterday was short lived. The House rejected the farm bill with the hemp amendment that would have allowed for universities to grow and study the plant.
Not only that, but it seems it was purely symbolic, considering Colorado Rep. Jared Polis - who sponsored the amendment - ended up voting against the farm bill as a whole. Don't you just love the American government system sometimes?
I guess the silver lining is that hemp truly had nothing to do with the bill's defeat. The house rejected the $500 billion farm bill mostly over the $75 billion food stamp program.
Original report - 6/20/13: Earlier this morning the U.S. House of Representatives gave approval to a farm bill amendment that would allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes. Other amendments allowing for industrial hemp cultivation outright failed to gain approval from the Senate.
Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Boulder, Colo., said it only makes sense to start separating industrial hemp from its more psychoactive cousin in how we craft our laws. If doing so at the university research level can expedite that, then so be it.
"Hemp is not marijuana," Polis wrote in a letter signed by two other representatives from Oregon and Kentucky respectively. "Our amendment defines industrial hemp as a product containing less than 0.3 percent THC. At this concentration, and even at much higher concentrations, it is physically impossible to use hemp as a drug. From Colorado to Kentucky to Oregon," they wrote, "voters across the country have made it clear that they believe industrial hemp should be regulated as agricultural commodity, not a drug. At the very least, we should allow our universities -- the greatest in the world -- to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural resource."
The amendment would allow higher education institutions in states that have legalized hemp production already to conduct the studies.
Predictably, the bill saw some opposition from people still too stupid to Google the difference between hemp and cannabis that you smoke to get a buzz or medicate. Rep. Steve King, a republican from Iowa, said the law would create problems because he can't tell the difference between pot and hemp.
"Even though the gentleman says hemp is not marijuana, I don't know if one can tell the difference when it's planted row by row out in the field," King said during the hearing, according to The Hill.
Rep. King, maybe it's time you do a bit of homework on the bills you're voting on instead of just blindly voting on knee-jerk reactions. I'm sure your constituents would appreciate it, considering that's what they elected you to do.
Unfortunately, there seems to be knee-jerk reactions to knee-jerk reactions from jerks like King. Notably, when a representative from Minnesota suggested gene-splicing hemp plants so that they grow under fluorescent lights. Seriously. Instead of using simple common sense and (at most) doing a few field tests for potency, they are suggesting altering one of the most naturally useful plants on the face of the earth.
The Huffington Post reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration has also lobbied against the bill, saying they are afraid hemp farmers would hide cannabis grows in their crops. Again, people aren't doing their homework. As HuffPo points out (and as any grower will tell you), the hemp plants would likely pollinate the cannabis plants and cause them to go to seed - a move no cannabis grower would permit.
The amendment was approved 225 to 200. The farm bill would still need to gain approval before the amendment would be truly finalized.