State House OKs bill creating industrial hemp business

OLYMPIA — Industrial hemp would be allowed to be grown in Washington state under a measure passed Monday by the House.

House Bill 1888 received unanimous support in the House and now heads to the Senate. The measure authorizes the director of the Department of Agriculture to issue licenses to grow industrial hemp. The department would be designated as the sole source and supplier of seeds used for industrial-hemp production. Hemp is used to make a variety of different products, including clothing, food, beauty products and biofuels.

“It’s fitting that on Presidents Day we can recognize that the first three presidents of this country — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — all grew hemp crops,” said Republican Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane, the sponsor of the measure.

Shea noted that Washington state currently imports hemp from other countries, and he said that legalizing industrial hemp in the state “means hundreds of jobs.”

The measure also requires the state Department of Agriculture to work with the Liquor Control Board to prevent cross-pollination between industrial hemp and recreational marijuana. Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant but has much less THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that makes people high.

Under the bill, Washington State University would also be authorized to undertake research regarding industrial-hemp production in this state.

Washington voters passed Initiative 502 in November 2012 to legalize and regulate the recreational use of pot by adults over 21, and the first state-licensed pot stores are expected to open in the coming months.

Also Monday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 2405, which directs the state Department of Agriculture to evaluate whether hemp and hemp products should be allowed as a component of animal feed for commercial animals.

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