President Obama Signs the Farm Bill

What the bill does and could mean for industrial hemp in Ohio

(Columbus, OH): Today, at Michigan State University in nearby East Lansing, Michigan, President Barack Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law. This farm bill contains a provision that will now permit universities and state agricultural departments to research and grow industrial hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant. This same plant is also utilized for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, albeit illegally in states like Ohio. For the purpose of this bill, the concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis, many not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.  

Originally inserted by U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R‐KY), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) as an amendment to the larger farm bill, “Section 7606, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research” will permit the growing of this potentially profitable plant without interference by the federal government. With a vote of 68-32, the U.S. Senate passed the $956.4 billion farm bill into law on Tuesday, February 5, 2014. The U.S. House similarly passed the measure by 251-166 on January 29, 2014. It will allow institutions of higher education and state departments to conduct "agricultural pilot programs" in the nine states that have re-legalized industrial hemp: California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia. 

While to date, 32 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and 20 have passed it, Ohio is not among them. “Ohio needs to get in the game,” states E.R. Beach, Southwest Regional Manager and a member of the Advisory Board for the Ohio Rights Group. “Our state represents one of the most fertile grounds for the reemergence of this vibrant new industry.” He went on to explain the three factors that bode well for positioning Ohio as a leader in the global hemp market: farming, manufacturing and distribution.

According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, “Food and agriculture is Ohio’s top industry, contributing $105 billion to Ohio’s economy with actual farm gate receipts of $9.65 billion.”[1][1] The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, Ohio ranked 4th in the U.S. for the number of manufacturing plants: 14,729 such establishments. Manufacturing was the state’s second largest employer.[2][2] In terms of logistics, the state ranks third in the country in total value of inbound and outbound shipments at $907 billion, and first in value of outbound shipments at $244 billion. Ohio has the fourth largest rail system.[3][3]

While there is no official dollar estimate of the market potential for hemp-based products in the U.S., projections from the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) place total U.S. retail value in 2012 at nearly $500 million. Included in this number are body care sales in the range of $156 million to $171 million, along with clothing and textiles at roughly $100 million annually.[4][4]

[1] Agricultural FAQ. Ohio Farm Bureau. http://ofbf.org/education-and-reference/faq/

[2] “Census Bureau Economic Statistics, Manufacturing Snapshot: Ohio,” U.S.Census, http://www.census.gov/manufacturing/mfgstat/pdfs/OHManufacturing-snapshot.pdf

[3] Economy of Ohio, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Ohio

[4]“Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity,” Congressional Research Service, July 2013. https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32725.pdf