Enric Martinez

Washington Passes Bill for Industrial Hemp Research Plots

The Washington state Senate passed SB 6206 last week, which authorizes certain individuals to grow pilot crops of industrial hemp for research purposes. The bill passed on a vote of 48-1.

Though Washington was among the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, it has remained behind the times in regards to industrial hemp cultivation, until now.

SB 6206 is inspired largely by the 2014 Farm Bill, which opened up the opportunity for states with hemp cultivation laws to begin planting pilot crops without fear of federal repercussions. Hemp farmers would have to register with and be licensed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). Individuals with a felony drug offense from within the last 10 years would be barred from the program, though hemp itself is non-psychoactive.

“This is the responsible route to take,” said Washington hemp lobbyist Joy Beckerman. “Our department of agriculture has gotten impressively sophisticated year by year.”

WSDA policy assistant Steve Fuller told Capital Press that he’s been consistently receiving at least one phone inquiry per week about the legal status of industrial hemp. “There has been a good amount of interest in the possibilities,” he said. “Anytime there’s a new agricultural opportunity out there, we like to try to support it.”

The WSDA said it will need $145,000 for the program, which could be ready to roll out by the 2017 growing season.

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