Legislation to allow hemp growing moves forward

FRESNO, Calif.

Hemp was considered a marijuana plant, but the key difference is it doesn't contain much of the substance THC that makes marijuana smokers high. But, it looks like pot, and after the war the Federal Government banned it's growth, because of the nationwide paranoia over marijuana use. Agricultural Economist and former Kings County Supervisor Tony Oliveira says it's time to change that thinking.

"It's just old school thought that some of the people in the DEA and some of the narcotics still look at Hemp as Marijuana and they just can't get off that issue."

Despite a Federal Ban on Hemp, the California Legislature approved hemp growing in 2006, but it was vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A new effort is underway, lead by State Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat from the Bay Area. His bill passed one committee this week and is given a good chance to clear the legislature, and get the new Governor's signature.

Oliveira, a Republican says even local conservatives support the idea. "The Central Valley is great for free enterprise."

One Valley farmer, Charles Meyers has already volunteered his land near Stratford for a test plot, to grow the crop. Hemp products are already widely sold. The Hemp Shack in Fresno sells everything hemp, from clothing to balms, lotions and elixirs. It's also found in all kinds of foods. But these products are all made from hemp grown in other countries, mostly Canada. Oliveira says it's time Valley growers got the chance to cash in on what is now a multimillion dollar a year market.

"I think it would be a niche crop, but I like niche crops that give Californian's choices."

Opposition to hemp growing has come from some law enforcement agencies who fear they won't be able to tell hemp plants, from marijuana plants.

The hemp law is expected to come to a final vote in the coming weeks.

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