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New Attempt to Legalize Hemp in Ohio

Hemp can be used to make rope, clothing and other products. (Ji-Elle/Wikimedia Commons)
Hemp can be used to make rope, clothing and other products. (Ji-Elle/Wikimedia Commons)
February 20, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The same lawmaker behind the push to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio is now turning his attention to industrial hemp.

State Senator Stephen Huffman, a Republican from Tipp City, is co-sponsoring legislation to establish guidelines for hemp cultivation under the Ohio Department of Agriculture. While hemp is a relative of the marijuana plant, Huffman explains it doesn't have the same properties.

"There's a huge amount of misinformation,” says Huffman. “You can't get high off it; it doesn't have the psychotropic that the marijuana does. Once you can get people educated that you can make rope, clothing, car parts, oils – it will be a great cash crop for the state of Ohio."

The 2014 Farm Bill created regulations for states interested in hemp pilot programs to research the crop. Ohio is one of nine states that did not apply.

Hemp is now no longer considered a controlled substance. It was redefined as a legal crop in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The legislation would help alleviate some of the controversy regarding CBD (cannabidiol) oil, which some experts say is therapeutic in addressing chronic pain and other ailments. CBD is produced from hemp – however, it is restricted under Ohio's medical marijuana program.

Huffman says the bill would give the Ohio Department of Agriculture authority over CBD, and it could be sold without a license.

"I'm not sure that it helps for medicinal purposes, but there's a lot of people that believe it does with very little side effect,” says Huffman. “So, I think we should give them that opportunity to continue to use it under the correct regulation."

Medical marijuana was made legal in Ohio in 2016 under a bill sponsored by Huffman. The state's first dispensaries opened last month and have since, according to the state, sold 126 pounds of medical marijuana, totaling $947,000.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest, and funded in part by The George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH