As Oklahoma continues to grapple with a budget shortfall, lawmakers passed a measure that would legalize the production of industrial hemp.
The Senate voted 39-1 in favor of House Bill 2913, which will now head to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk.
The bill, which would allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp, is seen by many as a wise financial move that could boost the state’s struggling economy.
“We know Oklahoma has to diversify our economy. We need new and recurring revenue and this does both,” State Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, told News 4.
Rep. Dollens noted that an acre of hemp would yield $1,500, could create hundreds of jobs and generate about $300 million per year.
“Oklahoma is prime real estate for the production of industrial hemp. Our farmers can grow it, they can do well. Our citizens can buy new products that can be made from this, it can be taxed,” he said. “It could be the next billion dollar industry in Oklahoma.”
One of the oldest plants that has been in continuous use by human civilization, hemp is used to make thousands of items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials.
“Hemp is great for textiles, plastics, even as fuel. The research possibilities are endless,” said Dollens. “It’s a cash crop. Unfortunately, throughout time, it’s become synonymous with marijuana.”
Dolens added that the plan will have a research and pilot program tied to the bill. Currently, universities in the state cannot use the crop in research.
The United States once had a successful hemp market, until it was made illegal under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 because of its relation to marijuana.
Right now, there are 34 states with industrial hemp legislation on the books.
Things are looking up for hemp.
Source: The Weed Blog