Michigan is one of several states that have passed laws establishing industrial hemp programs limited to agricultural or academic research purposes. In 2014, a provision in the federal farm bill made it possible for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes.
More than 27 states have removed barriers to industrial hemp production, including Michigan.
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Michigan’s law, signed by the governor in January 2015, allows the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) or a college or university in the state to grow industrial hemp for agricultural for academic research purposes. The law also creates the Industrial Hemp Research Fund, which will be administered by MDARD. The state treasurer is directed to place any money or other assets from any source into the fund, including federal research grants.
The federal government classifies hemp as an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act because it contains trace amounts of the same hallucinogen found in marijuana. However, hemp is genetically different.
Other states, such as Kentucky, are more aggressive in their efforts to compete in the industrial hemp farming arena. Kentucky is in its second season of planting crops and wants to lead the nation in hemp production.
Proponents of legalizing industrial hemp in Michigan and other states say it has many uses and production can help boost the agriculture industry, especially in economically depressed rural areas. Hemp can be used to make fabric, food, fuel, plastics, construction material, and paper.
Located in the Great Lakes region of the Midwestern U.S., experts say Michigan’s climate is good for growing hemp.
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The nonprofit Michigan Industrial Hemp Education and Marketing Project
is “working to expand hemp as a natural resource for industrial and private enterprise.” The organization’s website states, “Our mission is to educate the public and state government officials about industrial hemp and try to clear up the myths and teach the facts through meetings and seminars and setting up booths at public events.”
An effort is underway in Michigan to get a new marijuana legalization initiative placed on the state’s ballot in 2016. The initiative would include a provision for Michigan farmers to grow industrial hemp.
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