Our Views: Arizona has head start as Congress OKs hemp production

December 15, 2018

The massive federal farm bill passed Congress — finally — this week as one of the key components to averting a federal government shutdown.

Its name may suggest little relevance to our desert region. Not so. It’s a sweeping bill, dealing with the way the nation’s food is grown and consumed.

One of the ways it intersects with Arizona is hemp, which the bill legalizes as an agricultural commodity for the first time. Hemp, of course, is the non-toxic component of the marijuana plant and has for decades existed in a legal nether world despite demand for its use in fabrics and, more recently, CBD oil as a pain therapy.

Thanks to bill sponsor Sen. Sonny Borrelli, Arizona legalized hemp in the last legislative session and is poised for a regulated hemp industry to literally take root this spring.

The federal action legitimizes the product.

Importantly, it opens the doors for hemp farmers to do business with banks. Because of its association with marijuana, banks have steered clear of the hemp business.

The state action helps assure, among other things, that hemp growing isn’t just a cover for illicit marijuana farming. The Arizona law specifies a low upper limit for intoxicating chemicals in hemp and establishes registration and testing requirements.

Arizona jumped on hemp legalization early enough that companies, especially CBC producers, are making the state one of the leaders in commercial hemp.

Altogether, nationally, the legalization of hemp may generate some $20 billion a year in sales.

Broad support for legalization of hemp federally came from farmers seeking a new crop. In Arizona, the farming picture is a bit more complicated due to a tenuous water situation.

But hemp will still be grown in the state and CBD producers will add jobs as this business grows.

Arizona has a leg up on this potentially large bit of business because its laws are nicely synced to the federal government’s, thus allowing a future of unfettered interstate commerce.

It’s likely the new state program will hit a snag or two.

We hope lawmakers recognize the potential value to our state and are ready to make adjustments if needed.

Arizona is ahead with this business and it needs to stay ahead.

— Today’s News-Herald

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