Lawmakers Aim to Ease Restrictions on Growing Industrial Hemp

Jan 28, 2014

It may not be any good for smoking. But, some lawmakers want the state to remove a legal hurdle that now keeps farmers from growing hemp. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

An industrial hemp farm

The problem is that the state’s criminal code pretty much makes it a crime for anyone without a doctor’s recommendation to grow or possess marijuana. And hemp is, in fact, a form of the same plant. The legislation would spell out that it does not count if the amount of THC, the psychoactive element, is less than three-tenths of 1 percent. Rep. Sonny Borrelli told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday the ban makes no sense, especially as the U.S. allows importation of products made with hemp grown elsewhere. As he spoke, Borrelli held a foreign-made hemp rope.

“This has such minute particles of THC in it, you’d have to smoke this whole bale here to get high. And by that time, I think you're going to die of smoke inhalation before you even get impaired or intoxicated,” Borrelli said.

But, the measure is drawing concern from the Department of Public Safety. Lobbyist Katy Proctor said right now it’s easy to analyze samples sent to the DPS: It’s either marijuana or it's not. But, she said testing to see if it’s potent enough to be illegal turns a 10-minute procedure into a two-hour one.

“We do 10,000 of these a year. So you can imagine that is going to be a cost to our department and to our labs. We’re going to have to hire several additional criminalists to do that and we’re also going to have to have additional equipment to do that,” Proctor said.

Nine other states already have adopted laws that promote the growing of hemp.