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Legalizing Weed: Key Players in Michigan's Legalization of Industrial Hemp Farming

By    |   Sunday, 24 Jan 2016 05:51 PM

Michigan is one of many states working toward legalizing hemp and turning it into a cash crop that can benefit the state's farmers and its economy.

Until the 2014 Farm Bill eased some of the restrictions, hemp farming was banned in the United States. The federal government had prohibited it decades earlier because of its relation to cannabis, the plant used to make marijuana. Hemp, however, has almost no intoxicating properties, containing little of the chemical that makes marijuana a drug. In fact, for centuries hemp was valued as a crop used to make food and consumer goods. Other countries have dropped their bans, and because U.S. manufacturers could not grow it they had to import it from these countries.

The following people have played key roles in the effort to legalize industrial hemp farming in Michigan.

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1. State Rep. Kevin Daley (R-Lum)
In 2014, Rep. Kevin Daley introduced House Bill 5439, which legalized industrial hemp farming. A bill introduced alongside it would differentiate hemp from marijuana as defined by the public health code.

"We have to draw a distinction between this and the hoopla of medical marijuana in our state. Industrial hemp is not that kind of material. We're truly looking at a product that can be grown in our state and grown legally," Daley told the website MLive.com.

2. State Rep. Pete Pettalia (R-Presque Isle)
Rep. Pete Pettalia sponsored House Bill 5440, the companion bill to HB 5439. HB 5440 changed the public health code to clarify what industrial hemp is and distinguish it from the plant used in the manufacture of marijuana.

3. State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor)
Rep. Jeff Irwin co-sponsored the effort to change hemp laws, as reported by MLive.com. Irwin pointed out the value of making another cash crop available to farmers, saying "We have a particularly capable land grant university right here in Michigan that fights under the green and white that would be a perfect institution to apply for those kind of funds. This will make that possible."

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As reported by Michigan Radio, Irwin also introduced legislation in 2013 to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana. Some cities in the state had already decriminalized it, and as Irwin said to Michigan Radio, "(We must) take those policies that are already governing a good percentage of people in Michigan, and are working just fine, and apply those policies statewide. And by doing so, we will free up a lot of law enforcement resources."

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Michigan is one of many states working toward legalizing hemp and turning it into a cash crop that can benefit the state's farmers and its economy.
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Sunday, 24 Jan 2016 05:51 PM
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