Progress On Maryland Industrial Hemp Bill

Industrial hemp in Maryland
Image: Rotational - Public Domain

An industrial hemp bill in the U.S. state of Maryland has survived its third reading, raising hopes that 2018 might be the year industrial hemp finally gets a better look-in in the state.

Senate Bill 1201 passed the House 135-0 after earlier being passed by the Senate 47-0.

Championed by Senator Joan Conway, Senate Bill 1201 calls for the establishing of an industrial hemp pilot program enabling research and any aspect of growing, cultivating, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, transporting, marketing, or selling relating to agricultural, industrial, or commercial purposes – but not medical it seems.

SB 1201 would also see industrial hemp removed from the definition of marijuana under the state’s relevant criminal laws.

Enabling industrial hemp cultivation in the state on a broader scale has been a long time coming, with various pieces of legislation having failed or stalled previously; but it seems Maryland is getting ready to join its neighbours Pennsylvania and Virginia in cultivating the crop; perhaps as early as the 2019 growing season.

According to The Case For Hemp In Maryland (PDF), the state appears to be good hemp-growing country. A 1990’s experiment on farmland owned by the University of Maryland along the Wye River showed hemp flourished. Back in the 1950’s, the USDA said the “Hagerstown series” of soils in Western Maryland were among the best in the USA for growing hemp.

However, there’s one more hurdle to clear – the Bill must be signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. That may not prove to be a huge challenge as the Governor signed legislation in 2016 to permit the Department of Agriculture to authorize institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for academic research purposes.

Like Iowa, which we wrote about yesterday, Maryland is another state where medical cannabis cultivation and production has been legalised before industrial hemp, even though hemp has zero value as a recreational drug.

Still, it’s good to see industrial hemp accelerating the shedding of its undeserved reputation through its relationship to marijuana, and politicians increasingly waking up to the fact that the crop has huge potential.