Congress approves hemp, then votes down farm bill

By Chris Conrad,

The House of Representatives solidly rejected a last-minute lobbying bid from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) June 20, 2013 and adopted a farm bill amendment in a 225-200 vote to legalize growing hemp for research purposes. Soon thereafter, it voted down the $940 billion bill by 195-234. Most Democrats voted against the bill because it cut food stamps by more than $20 billion. Many Republicans voted no because the country is already $17 trillion in debt.

The vote is a blow to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has failed to move farm policy forward for two years in a row. A new and more conservative farm bill is expected to be put forward, but even if it is not, there’s a good chance the hemp amendment will get inserted into other legislation now that the full House has approved it.

Despite the full bill being voted down because of partisan differences, hemp and environmental advocates and marijuana reformers all see HR 1947 as an important victory. The DEA had argued that it would be too difficult for the US agency to do what law enforcement routinely does in scores of other nations — distinguish industrial hemp from its genetic cousin, the marijuana strains of cannabis. This marks the first time in over a half century that Congress voted to allow hemp farming, and perhaps the first time that it listened to arguments from both DEA and cannabis reformers, then sided with the citizenry.

The amendment, introduced by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), to allow universities and colleges to cultivate industrial hemp, is less ambitious than a Senate effort by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to fully legalize growing hemp for industrial use. McConnell’s bill remains stalled. — West Coast Leaf News Service

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