Rhode Island Becomes Seventh State To Legalize Industrial Hemp Farming

legalize industrial hemp rhode island marijuana prohibition environment sustainability

On January 1st, 2017 a new law made Rhode Island the most recent state to allow industrial hemp farming despite federal restrictions.


A chief reason that cannabis was prohibited in the first place was to protect special business interests that were threatened by the ease, availability and versatility of its non-psychoactive counterpart – hemp. History will likely view the rampant environmental destruction of the 20th and 21st century and consider hemp prohibition one of the biggest ways we screwed the pooch.

[You do not necessarily need to agree with the divisive climate change science to realize that we have not been good stewards of our environment in a number of ways.]

However, just like with cannabis, the hemp tide is starting to turn. And Rhode Island will now be joining Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, California and Vermont in legalizing it for agricultural purposes; and ignoring the federal governments misguided and barbaric bans on the crop.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center:

(Jan 1, 2017) – Today, a law went into effect legalizing the production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in Rhode Island, setting the foundation to nullify federal prohibition in practice.

A coalition of five Democrats introduced House Bill 8232 (H8232) on May 19. As introduced, the legislation would have only allowed state-licensed representatives of the Narragansett Indian Tribe to produce, possess, distribute, and commercially trade industrial hemp. In a rapid series of events, the bill was amended in the House Committee of Health Education and Welfare to apply to everybody.

On June 17, the House passed the amended bill 71-0. The Senate concurred the next day by a 26-7 margin. With Gov. Gina Raimondo’s signature, the law will go into effect Jan.1 2017.

Under the law, industrial hemp is now treated as an agricultural crop subject to regulation by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation. The legislation reads in part:

“Hemp is an agricultural product which may be grown as a crop, produced, possessed, distributed, and commercially traded pursuant to the provisions of this chapter…The department shall adopt rules to provide for the implementation of this chapter, which shall include rules to  require hemp to be tested during growth for THC levels and to require inspection of hemp during sowing, growing season, harvest, storage, and processing.”

The law prohibits the Department of Business Regulation from adopting any rules that would prohibit a person or entity from growing or distributing hemp based on the legal status of hemp under federal law. Language in the bill acknowledges federal prohibition on hemp, but correctly asserts the state can legally dictate its own policy notwithstanding federal law.

“States are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law. Therefore, compliance with this chapter does not put the state of Rhode Island in violation of federal law.”

Industrial hemp can be used to produce innumerable materials and products. As well as paper and textiles, hemp can be used to create plastic, fuel and other things which we currently rely on petroleum or other more scarce resources for. The number of potential applications of the hemp plant in modern society could number in the tens of thousands.

In many ways it is a far less destructive crop than things like corn and soybeans which are heavily subsidized to artificially increase their markets. Yet hemp needs no such push, as it gives back far more per acre for less expense and labor than those other crops. So unlike the subsidized crops, they won’t cost us both at the market and in taxes.

There are many other benefits to growing hemp, such as the ability to scrub environments of toxins and radiation. It has even been suggested as a way of mitigating leaks from the Fukushima reactor, which is still in a precarious way years after a tsunami damaged it.

With the promise of increased jobs and economic growth, environmental health and sustainable quality products – hemp is might as well be a miracle. And even if it is not a miracle, it cannot be any worse than what we are currently doing to ourselves and our planet in the name of profits for those holding monopolies on non-renewable resources.

At the end of the day prohibition of hemp goes against the foundations of agriculture and industry, as well as the spirit of independence and innovation, that our society was built upon.

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