August-12-2019

Hemp, marijuana’s mild cousin, just got the green light in N.J.

Below is an article written by Susan K. Livio and published by NJ Advance Media on August 10, 2019.

 

Hemp, a versatile plant genetically related to marijuana but with none of its psychoactive effects, can be grown freely in the Garden State under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Friday.

Unlike the drive to legalize marijuana in New Jersey that stalled in the spring, hemp is enjoying a resurgence not seen in this country since Founding Fathers used hemp paper to draft the Declaration of Independence.

In December, President Donald Trump signed legislation taking hemp off the controlled substances list, where it had sat since 1970. That opened the door to states looking to take advantage of the crop as a source for textiles, fodder for animal feed and the foundation for a popular array of wellness products.

The law Murphy signed Friday repeals a law he enacted last fall, before Trump’s action, that created a limited farming program.

The new law says farmers must be registered with the state Department of Agriculture, and submit to periodic testing to determine whether a crop’s THC level — the active ingredient that makes people feel high — is below 0.3 percent. If a farmer’s hemp flunked the THC test three times within five years, the state could bar them from growing in the future.

“New Jersey’s agriculture industry has the capacity and ability to capitalize on new opportunities for hemp products that will create jobs and expand economic opportunities,” said state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The bill passed the state Legislature with $500,000 included in the state budget to get the hemp program going. But the hemp funding was among the $235 million Murphy froze in budget battle with the state Legislature. Murphy, after failing to convince lawmakers to embrace a millionaire’s tax, said the state had to wait to see if there were sufficient revenues to cover the additional spending.

“I hope that by signing this bill today, Gov. Murphy sees the immense economic benefit this program will be for the Garden State and takes the temporary hold off the funds needed to ensure the expansion of the hemp industry gets off to a strong and thriving start,” Sweeney said.

State and federal agriculture regulators have been working behind the scenes for months to create the legal framework for the burgeoning industry, officials have said.

“We’re bringing life to two new industries in the Garden State with this law,” state Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, also a sponsor, said. “One that will allow farmers to expand their crops to grow hemp and the other will develop an entire processing industry for hemp that really has a life of its own.”

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