State News

Industrial hemp can’t get you high, but it's still outlawed. Lawmakers think legalizing it could help farmers.

Lawmakers have proposed a bill to legalize hemp crops in Wisconsin for industrial products. 

Image By: Brandon Moe and Brandon Moe

State lawmakers are circulating a proposal to legalize industrial hemp in the state. While previously outlawed, supporters say legalizing the crop could create opportunities for farmers.

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and state Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, would allow state agencies to give licenses to farmers to grow hemp for industrial products. Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, has long championed legalizing industrial hemp and also introduced a similar bill this session.

According to his spokesperson Grace Colas, Considine — who is a farmer by trade — has several constituents who would like to take advantage of the opportunity to grow industrial hemp on their farms.

“[Considine] himself grew up around wild hemp out in the 81st [Assembly] District and always wondered ‘Why cant we use this? Why can’t we make money off of this?'” Colas said.

The plastic fibers in hemp can be used to make fabric, furniture, bricks, insulation, paper products and more.

While anyone with a drug conviction could not acquire a license, some are skeptical of the crop because of its association with marijuana.

Marc Grignon, campaign manager for Hempstead Project Heart and an advocate for the movement, told The Wisconsin State Journal that hemp cannot be used as a drug despite how similar its leaves look to marijuana plants. But unlike the drug, which contains up to ten percent THC, the main psychoactive part of cannabis, hemp contains less than one percent.

“The difference between marijuana and hemp is you’re growing hemp for seeds and fiber, and marijuana you’re growing for buds,” Grignon said.

Thirty other states have legalized hemp production, including Kentucky, which Considine's office pointed to as a good example for Wisconsin.

“We think it’s past time for this to be a reality for Wisconsin farmers,” Colas said.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Small Business will vote Wednesday morning on whether or not to advance Rep. Kramer and Sen. Testin's bill.

UPDATED Oct. 17, 2017 at 12:40 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that Rep. Kramer and Sen. Testin's bill is separate from one introduced by Rep. Considine.

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