WEST CHESTER (October 14) – Governor Wolf held a ceremonial signing of Act 92 of 2016, a new law that paves the way for farms and farmers to grow industrial hemp in Pennsylvania, state Senator Andy Dinniman said today.

According to the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, the first hemp seeds will be in the ground in the Commonwealth this spring.

“Industrial hemp is a versatile, durable and environmentally-friendly fiber that has literally thousands of uses,” said Dinniman, who co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill. “It is not a drug and does not produce a high. It is grown safely worldwide. And, in fact, it has a history right here in Pennsylvania and America – with William Penn himself advocating hemp growth and both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington cultivating it on their farms.”

In signing the law earlier this year, Wolf pointed out that one of the first bills passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1683 encouraged farmers to plant and grow hemp.

Under Act 92, properly registered individuals can grow and cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes as part of a pilot program through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The law also allows for colleges and universities to produce hemp for research purposes.

The bill passed both the Senate and House unanimously over the summer.

Industrial hemp, which has no psychoactive properties, was a major cash crop in Pennsylvania until it was outlawed as part of the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. However, it remains one of the world’s most durable fibers for textiles and can be used to manufacture everything from biodegradable plastics, building materials, food products, paper, cosmetics, environmental and energy products. Farmers have also been known to cultivate it as a “cover crop” to keep nutrients in the soil between growing season.

Currently, companies in Pennsylvania that use hemp in their products must import it from Canada or China. Meanwhile, the U.S. industrial hemp industry has been estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales.

Act 92 was made possible by the federal 2014 Farm Bill that allows for pilot programs but limits hemp planting for research only.

Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said the new law is a big step in the right direction and one that will one again position Pennsylvania to be a leader in growing industrial hemp.

The new law creates the Hemp Research Board, which is now responsible for developing regulations, applications for registration, inspections, a database of registered persons, registration fees, guidelines for labeling and testing. Growers will have contracts with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and institutions of higher education to supply them with the industrial hemp for their research.

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