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March 17, 2016

Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approves industrial hemp bill

Bill would establish industrial hemp agricultural pilot programs across the state

The Pennsylvania Senate took another step closer to the legalization of industrial hemp on Wednesday after unanimously passing a bill that would establish a statewide cultivation pilot program through the creation of an Industrial Hemp Licensing Board in the Department of Agriculture.

Senate Bill 50, which was passed by a 49-0 vote, would permit universities in the state to legally conduct industrial hemp agricultural pilots for research purposes defined by federal guidelines, according to Hemp Inc., an environmental research and hemp advocacy firm.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pa. House approves medical marijuana bill in landslide vote

Hemp is currently legal in 27 states and has a variety of uses as a durable natural fiber and renewable source for raw materials used in products including clothing, cars, paper, fuels and construction materials. Though it derives from the same cannabis plant used to cultivate marijuana, it is not considered a substance that can be smoked or otherwise used as a drug.

"The fact that the vote was 49-0 shows overwhelming support from farmers, the public and politicians for industrial hemp," said Craig Perlowin, Secretary of Hemp, Inc. "With this kind of bipartisan and overall support, we expect to see all 50 states legalize hemp in the coming months and years ahead. And as that happens, Hemp, Inc. will be there to support the American farmers in any way we can."

Part of the motivation for legalizing the crop is that the United States has become one of the world's biggest importers of it, spending as much as $580 million in 2013 before 14 additional states passed industrial hemp legislation. Another factor is that it is considered an environmentally friendly, climate resilient plant that requires few chemicals and minimal water use to thrive.

"Pennsylvania is soon to be yet another state to become part of a new clean, green agricultural and industrial American revolution that, based on the economics and products derived from hemp, is set to be the next billion-dollar industry," says Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc.

The bill will next head to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which on Wednesday approved a medical marijuana bill that is slated to be reviewed by the Senate.