Support is growing for legalizing the commercial production of industrial hemp in Wisconsin. Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois have passed similar legislation, and Wisconsin is following suit. Wisconsin State Senator Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, and State Representative Jess Kremer, R-Kewaskum, co-wrote the bill, and it is gaining bipartisan support.
In 2014, the U.S. house passed a federal bill, which allowed for hemp research programs across the country. Since then, 16 states have legalized industrial hemp production for commercial use. 20 states have passed laws that allow research and pilot programs.
Under the state’s new bill, Wisconsin would grant licenses to farmers who wish to produce the crop. Anyone convicted of drug trafficking or drug-related charges will be unable to get a license.
As part of the bill’s regulations, farmers would have to provide GPS coordinates for hemp fields. Levels of THC, the intoxicant that causes the “high” of marijuana, would also be under regulation. Many existing states’ statutes define hemp as a form of cannabis with a THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less. This is significantly less than the average level of THC in Colorado’s legal marijuana, which is 18.7 percent.
Industrial hemp used to be a common crop for farmers, particularly in Wisconsin. Wisconsin was a leader in industrial hemp production during World War II. In 1941, The Capital Times reported that Wisconsin produced 75 percent of commercial hemp in the United States. Now, as farmers are facing low market prices on many Wisconsin-produced crops, hemp legislation could give them an added opportunity for income.
Industrial hemp has many economic and environmental benefits. It strengthens plastics, creates fire-retardant materials, and produces paper. Not only is hemp valued for its product potential, but also for its health benefits. It has a hardy amount of omega-threes, which reduce risk factors for heart attack.
Senator Testin and Representative Kremer will be seeking co-sponsors until Mar. 10, after which they plan to introduce the bill on the Assembly and Senate floors.