Connecticut Inches Closer to Growing Hemp in 2015

By Paul Gaita 01/09/15

The state hopes to boost its economy with a reliable cash crop.

big hemp field.jpg

This month, three Connecticut commissions will present their findings from a study on the feasibility of growing industrial hemp as a means of boosting economic growth in their state.

The study, signed into law by Governor Dannel Mallow last June, pressed the state's Commissioners of Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Economic and Community Development, to not only determine if legalizing industrial hemp could increase new businesses for the state, but also establish a maximum limit of THC in the product to differentiate industrial hemp from marijuana.

The state must also suggest means of amending the state laws to exclude this hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, while establishing a licensing system for industrial hemp growers and sellers. The bill echoes a revised farm bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in February 2014, which granted universities and state agricultural departments to launch hemp-growing programs.

The difference between industrial hemp and cannabis sativa, or marijuana is THC content. The plants used to manufacture industrial hemp contain approximately 0.03 % of the psychoactive ingredient, while marijuana’s THC content averages between 2% and 22%.

Though a popular cash crop in the United States for centuries, hemp was banned by federal law in the 1950s due to its association with marijuana. While it remains illegal to grow in the United States, hemp is estimated to have generated more than $500 million in sales of food, nutritional supplements, body-care products, clothing, and textiles.

Most of the hemp used in those products is grown in either Canada or Europe, which is why Connecticut and 18 other states, which are also pursuing hemp studies, are eager to explore options that would allow them to establish an economic beachhead for hemp production in the United States.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.