WASHINGTONThe U.S. House of Representatives has legalized the cultivation of hemp, allowing companies to no longer have to import hemp fabrics, seeds, hearts and hurd. The approval will benefit the food and beverage industry since hemp is used in granola bars and other products, as well as in nutritional additives for everything from milk to cooking oil.
The passage of the farm bill will clear the way for industrial hemp pilot programs in states such as Colorado, Washington, California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia, where growing the plant is legal. The bill was originally introduced as an amendment by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
The provision allows universities, and now also state departments of agriculture, to grow hemp for academic or agricultural research purposes; however, it only applies to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
Hemp oils offer a variety of health benefits. They are packed with vitamins A, C and E, beta carotene, and they are also rich in protein, carbohydrates, minerals and fibers. Recent research indicates that hemp includes substances such as sterols, aliphatic alcohols and linolenic acids, which are likely to promote good health.
Estimates place the U.S. 2013 hemp sales at $500 million, and most of the growth over the past decade was seen in hemp seed and oil, which is used in granola bars and other products. Other uses include rope and clothing, soap and lotions and nutritional additives.
Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp before the Federal government banned the plant in its anti-drug efforts through the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. It wasn't until 1999 that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a hemp permit for an experimental plot in Hawaii on a quarter acre of land.