Industrial Hemp Production
COMMITTEE ON JOINT AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
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07:39 AM -- Industrial Hemp Production
Trevor Kloeck, Senior Development Officer - Biofibres, Alberta Research Council (ARC), explained that the ARC is a government-owned, applied research and development corporation that develops and converts early stage research into marketable technology products and services. Its clients include industry, agricultural producers, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. The ARC is conducting research on biomass options including the use of crop residue, switchgrass, fiber crops, such as hemp, and agro-forestry. He explained that hemp was widely cultivated in Canada to make sail cloth and other materials before it become illegal to possess. In late 1990's, Canada reauthorized industrial hemp production. The ARC has conducted research that identified the agronomic benefits of hemp that include its high fiber and high biomass content and its vigorous growth with limited need for water and pesticides. In response to questions from the committee, Mr. Kloeck explained that hemp can be rotated with other crops and it poses little threat of becoming a noxious weed as it is easily controlled with common herbicides. He explained that markets for industrial hemp include pulp and paper, fiber board, and automotive manufacturing that would use hemp fiber as an alternative to fiberglass. He also identified other environmental benefits of industrial hemp production including the capture and storage of CO2.
Mr. Kloeck explained that equipment used to harvest wheat may be modified without substantial cost to harvest hemp. He responded to questions from the committee about obstacles to increasing the production and use of hemp in the U.S. He explained that hemp production has a stigma due to its association with marijuana. Competing industries, such as fiberglass manufacturers, may also oppose hemp production. He also described the use of hemp in "bioplastics."
Lynda Parker, Colorado Industrial Hemp Initiative, identified states that are considering legislation to allow industrial hemp production. She also described litigation in federal court between North Dakota farmers and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency that seeks to determine whether federal marijuana laws apply to industrial hemp production. If the court determines that federal marijuana restrictions do not apply to industrial hemp, Ms. Parker explained that legislation in Colorado may be necessary to clarify that industrial hemp is legal and to create a licensing program for hemp producers.
Mr. Kloeck responded to questions about how to process hemp. He also explained that hemp seeds may be legally imported in U.S. to process into food, cosmetics, and other products. However, these seeds may not be used to grow hemp.