ALBANY—New York would become one of the first states to legalize industrial hemp cultivation under a proposed new bill.
The bill would allow state colleges and universities, as well as the state agriculture department, to grow industrial hemp as part of a pilot program, said co-sponsor Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo of Binghamton.
Hemp is variant of the cannabis plant that also produces marijuana, but has a far lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, which gets users high. Lupardo said her effort was not tied to medical marijuana bills proposed earlier this year. She said commercial grade hemp has been unfairly associated with recreational marijuana.
“It has suffered from the stigma of the connection to marijuana, it has no recreational value whatsoever,” she said.
Lupardo said industrial hemp plants don’t get users high and are strictly an agricultural product with multiple uses, including as fiber, building material and as a food supplement. Hemp has a long history of industrial use and was purportedly grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. She said the law would require industrial hemp cultivation on state land.
Industrial hemp production is legal in more than 30 countries, including Canada, Germany, England and France, Lupardo said. It is illegal to cultivate industrial hemp in the United States without a permit from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
She said researchers at Cornell University and the State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry have already expressed interest in growing the hemp.
The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Republican Thomas O’Mara of Elmira.
She said the pilot program is possible under the new federal farm bill, and will help the state prepare for a larger commercial operation if federal restriction on hemp farming are lifted.
“This another potential lucrative option for our family farms,” she said.