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Burzichelli, Milam & Houghtaling Bill Establishing Pathway to Hemp Industry Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Matt Milam and Eric Houghtaling to establish a statewide program for the cultivation, handling, processing, transport, and sale of hemp and hemp products in the State in accordance with federal law was approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-5322) would repeal New Jersey’s hemp pilot program, and replace it with a permanent program, administered by the Department of Agriculture.

“We’re bringing life to two new industries in the Garden State with this legislation. One that will allow farmers to expand their crops to grow hemp and the other will develop an entire processing industry for hemp that really has a life of its own,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem). “This means increased sustainability for our agriculture industry, job creation for farmers and economic growth in New Jersey. The federal changes have allowed us, here in New Jersey, to expand our current program and seek ways to enter into a profitable industry in a more permanent, more viable way.”

Industrial hemp is used in a wide variety of products including textiles, construction materials, and foodstuffs.  A wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, animal feed, food, and beverages all may use hemp. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning nine markets: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food/nutrition/beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care.

“Just under 10,000 acres of hemp cultivated in the United States under the pilot program enacted in by the 2016 Farm Bill. Now, there are estimates that over 1,200 hemp farmers are operating on over 40,000 acres,” said Milam (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland). “When you couple that with the hundreds of processors already up and running around the country, the potential for growth for New Jersey’s farmers is immeasurable, as long as we are one of the first states to implement our regulatory scheme.”

“The demand for hemp goods is growing at the State and national level. Hemp can be a viable agricultural crop in New Jersey,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “The ability to grow this product on an industrial scale would allow farmers to diversify their harvests by adding a lucrative cash crop and researching cultivation methods of industrial hemp would greatly aid farmers seeking to grow it for the first time. This is a win-win for New Jersey farming and agricultural industry.”

The bill defines “hemp” as the plant Cannabis sativa L., any part of the plant, and all derivatives thereof with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent, consistent with federal law.  A hemp producer, under the bill, is a person or business entity authorized by the department to cultivate, handle, or process hemp in the State and “hemp product” means a finished product with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent that is derived from or made by processing a hemp plant or plant part and prepared in a form available for commercial sale, and would include cannabidiol.

The legislation would make it lawful for a hemp producer to cultivate, handle, or process hemp or hemp products in the State, and for any person to possess, transport, sell, and purchase legally-produced hemp products in the State.  Any unauthorized person who cultivates, handles, or processes living hemp would be subject to the same penalties as those related to marijuana.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.