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Alaska bill legalizing industrial hemp awaits governor’s pen

February 23, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A measure that would legalize the production of industrial hemp in Alaska has passed the state House and Senate.

The bill awaits Gov. Bill Walker’s signature before becoming law, Alaska Public Media reported Wednesday.

The legislation would allow registered participants into a pilot project to grow hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant that produces useful fiber, but almost none of the psychoactive compound that alters people’s mental state.

Republican state Sen. Shelley Hughes of Palmer introduced the bill. Hughes said she was approached by local farmers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough looking to grow hemp, which can be used as feed and bedding for livestock, as well as material to clean up oil spills.

“It was time to remove hemp from the marijuana statutes,” Hughes said. “There’s no psychoactive impact from hemp. If you were to smoke acres and acres and acres of hemp, all you would get would be a sore throat and a cough.”

Hughes said if signed, it’s likely that farmers could be growing hemp in Alaska by 2019.

Ember Haynes is among those interested in growing hemp to supplement livestock feed. But Haynes and her husband also want to grow it for use in products they sell through their Talkeetna-based Silverbear Sundries. Currently, they have had to import hemp from the Lower 48 to add to their balms, salves and other natural body products.

“I just want to use Alaska hemp,” Haynes said. “It’s been frustrating for us, just because our business is entirely made up of products that we wild-craft or grow ourselves. And so the hemp seed oil, that would just change everything for us, to have it completely Alaska-grown and made herbs and plants in our products.”

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