Bills Would Pave Way for New Jersey Farmers’ Entry Into Hemp Market
Two bills sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora to create a pathway to allow New Jersey residents to compete in the industrial hemp industry and grow the state’s economy were advanced by an Assembly committee on Thursday.
“More than 20 industrial hemp-producing countries worldwide each generate millions of dollars in revenue selling everything from fabrics to personal care products made from one of the world’s oldest crops,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We cannot continue to allow misconceptions about the hemp industry to govern decision-making when an opportunity to create good jobs and expand our economy is on the line.”
The first bill (A-2719) would outline rules and regulations for the planting, growth, harvest, possession, processing, distribution, purchase or sale of industrial hemp. As an agricultural product, industrial hemp would be subject to protection of the “Right to Farm Act,” which serves to aid small-scale farmers.
Under the bill, anyone using industrial hemp for the aforementioned purposes would be required to:
· file documentation with the Secretary of Agriculture indicating that the industrial hemp is of an approved type and variety, having a concentration of no more than 0.3 percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight; and
· notify the Secretary of Agriculture and the Attorney General of any sale or distribution of industrial hemp and the name and address of each person to whom the industrial hemp was sold or distributed during the calendar year.
In consultation with the attorney general, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture would establish: approved varieties of industrial hemp and methods to distinguish it from any type of marijuana, THC-testing protocols, growth and harvesting monitoring guidelines and penalties for violation of the bill’s provisions.
The second bill (A-2919) would establish an industrial hemp license, which would permit the holder to plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell and buy industrial hemp for commercial purposes. No person with a prior criminal conviction would be eligible for an industrial hemp license. Applicants would be required to submit fingerprints and any other information necessary to complete a criminal history and background check. License renewal would be required annually.
Gusciora said the legislation will encourage the federal government to take action to permit the domestic production of industrial hemp, which is a precondition that must be met before licenses may be issued in New Jersey.
“Giving New Jersey farmers the right to compete this industry – which is worth about half a billion dollars in the United States – starts with making the demand clear to Washington,” said Gusciora. “This common-sense legislation paves the way for our state to enter the market as soon as the federal government unlocks the door.”
Thirteen states – including California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia – have statutes establishing commercial industrial hemp programs, Gusciora noted. Seven states – Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, New York and Utah – have passed legislation establishing industrial hemp programs that are limited to agricultural or academic research purposes.
The bills were advanced by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.