State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Op Ed

Hemp’s Time Has Come

Benefits of legalization are many. Will legislature, Walker approve it?

By - Oct 30th, 2017 01:36 pm

Industrial Hemp. Photo by Aleks (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Industrial Hemp. Photo by Aleks (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Farmers in diverse states like Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine and Minnesota are researching a new crop: industrial hemp. Many states are changing laws to allow growing of hemp.

Wisconsin is slow to get in the game. Hopefully, this is about to change.

Lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism Committee have approved a hemp legalization bill. It has yet to be reviewed by the state Assembly. If Senate Bill 119 becomes law, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would create an active industrial hemp program and license growers.

Hemp is not a new crop to Wisconsin. We once had flourishing fields of hemp. But, as the saying goes, you are sometimes known by your relatives. Even for a plant. Hemp suffered from an association with its cousin, marijuana. By the 1950s, farmers stopped growing hemp. Federal and state drug laws swept up hemp in an effort to eradicate marijuana.

According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) publication, industrial hemp and marijuana are separate varieties or cultivars of the same species of plant cannabis sativa.

Generally, hemp is defined by having less than 0.3% of THC, an active ingredient in marijuana. However, the plant differs in other genetic aspects, in cultivation practices, and in its use.

Thirty counties around the world grow hemp as an agricultural commodity. Hemp can be used to create plastics, mixed with lime to create concrete, as a fiberglass alternative for use by aviation or automobiles or as a potential biodiesel fuel. The CRS reports more than 25,000 hemp products fall into nine markets: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food and beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care.

According to the CRS, growth in the sale of hemp products averaged over 15% annually between 2010 and 2015. The biggest demand for hemp related products are hemp-based body products, food or supplements. These products account for more than 60% of the value of U.S. sales.

Until recently, U.S. farmers were forbidden to grow hemp. This policy forced industries to import hemp raw materials or use finished hemp products for further processing. China now leads the world as a grower and supplier of hemp. United States processors also rely heavily on Canadian growers.

A provision in the 2014 federal Farm Bill allowed universities and state agriculture departments to begin supervising hemp in pilot programs. This caused a flurry of activity within state legislatures to create new hemp laws.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) as of July 2017, 33 states passed some legislation related to industrial hemp including all our Midwestern neighboring states except Iowa. Twenty-six states created laws that began research on hemp, or a grower pilot-program.

Many states passed laws encouraging the development of hemp for certain purposes. For example, Colorado is researching the use of hemp for animal feed. Kentucky funded research on the use of hemp for biofuels. North Carolina is studying hemp for soil conservation and reforestation. The CRS cites research showing hemp may be less environmentally degrading than some other crops. Hemp can play a role in crop rotation, breaking the cycle of disease and pests.

Wisconsin farmers are eager once again to get in on hemp production. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau and the Wisconsin Farmers Union are advocating for the passage of SB 119. Farmers from both organizations and local agriculture agents contacted me asking for quick passage of the SB 119.

Like many agricultural issues, hemp legislation this year has strong bipartisan support. Forty cosponsors of both parties signed up to help pass SB 119. This is a significant improvement from when I introduced the first Senate bill in 2016. Several earlier bills died in the Assembly.

This year, Senators Testin and Harsdorf took the bill I authored and added some important provisions. They gave the UW a role in supervising a seed certification program. The new bill allows any university or tribe to establish agricultural hemp plots. Additionally, it encourages our State Tribal Relations Committee to investigate hemp as an economic development tool for our tribes.

Hemp in Wisconsin is a crop whose time has come. Passage of SB 119 will begin the work of bringing back Wisconsin’s hemp industry. Let’s make 2017 the year of hemp.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is a member of the Wisconsin state Senate.

Categories: Business, Op-Ed, Politics

14 thoughts on “Op Ed: Hemp’s Time Has Come”

  1. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    We will fill our morgues with our kids, mostly women. DUI’s way up from drugs, long term deaths way up, estimaes 71,000 this year overdoses according to Sessions, FBI. Do we need to get more kids cremated? Your choice. Are our kids for sale for some tax money?

  2. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    For those who may not have fully developed mental faculties, Hemp IS NOT Marijuana.

  3. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    We know that, but is incredibly easy to have some pot growing in the hemp fields.
    It is one more step to do what the Left wants, is to fill our morgues with kids, mostly young women, by legalizing Pot.

  4. Tim says:

    Industrial hemp plants wreak havoc with marijuana. WCD, now are you in favor industrial hemp?

    “Phil Warner, from EcoFibre Industries, says marijuana contains the psychoactive chemical THC but hemp doesn’t, and that makes his industrial hemp research unpopular.

    He says drug growers are concerned that the pollen from the hemp will contaminate their high THC crops, reducing their virility.”

  5. Ryan says:

    I hope that Gov. Walker does not pander to individuals who attribute heroin overdose statistics to marijuana usage.

  6. MKE kid says:

    WCD, being a certified pharmacist by his own claim, is more comfortable doling out opioids by the handful.
    I’m a retired urban cop and have seen firsthand the havoc of God knows what street weed is laced with causes. Make weed legal already. People will use it, yes, including kids of tighty whitey righties. I’ve arrested dumb boys from the ‘burbs getting screwed by street dealers, which results in piles of paperwork. Then the dumb kids and their parents never show up at the Milwaukee county’s DA’s office, so the entire arrest gets no processed. Talk about a total waste of time and money. I won’t even bother to elaborate on the Waukesha county residents I’ve witnessed who buy weed and who knows what else on their way into Downtown Milwaukee as part of their commute.
    Make weed legal, regulate it, tax it. WCD’s ridiculous archaic arguments are akin to those 1950s PSAs. Look in your own backyard, WCD.

  7. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Dummie, I was pain management in nursing homes and rehab. Best for people to think you are stupid then open mouth and prove it.
    My arguements lay in the morgue, spurred on but the open use ,of Pot, the tolerance of use of it and the recreational drugs. Our kids piled up. 11 in 4 days last month, in Milwaukee.

  8. Greg Barker says:

    Researching Industrial Hemp is BS and the reason states have call it research in order to grow hemp is because the Feds are threatening to arrest and jail American Farmers for growing a plant that is not a drug and is not marijuana. We know how to grow it, we know how to market it for its health food products, and we know how to build alternative homes from hemp fibers.

    The USA will import almost 800 million dollars worth of Industrial Hemp Health food products from China and Canada this year alone. The Federal government policies are designed to punish American Farmers while enriching Chinese and Canadian Farmers and creating thousands of jobs in their countries. Again Industrial Hemp is not a drug and it is not Marijuana. Imagine you were arrested just because you looked like a criminal. That is what the Federal Government is doing to the hemp plant today. Political party does not matter, both parties are guilty of going against the will of the people.

    Sign our petition to pass HR 3530 to legalize industrial hemp an create thousands of jobs and spark a revolution. Here is the link.

  9. MKE kid says:

    WCD: Lessee here: Misspellings; check. Improper grammar: check. Improper use of punctuation: check. Random and improper use of capitalization: check. Unsubstantiated claims/statistics: check. Ad hominem grammar school name calling: check.
    WCD, keep it up. You provide the ammo against yourself and are too dim to realize it.

  10. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    NY times,Economist the medical profession all say that Pot is the Gateway drug to heroin to the morgue of our young girls, kids who never got Rx’s. only the Potheads do not believe that.
    Overdoses, DUI’s, long term deaths have exploded along with the use of recreational drugs, mostly Pot. Peoel that care about kids n the morgue, that are not Potheads, rec. drug users are very concernd about this loss of life, our young kids in morgues.
    Anyone that wants to stop this epidemic should read the research, and the charts i read for 50 years in Rehab,

  11. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    If you are too incompetent to discuss and solve problems you become a grammar cop. This is the time of texting so bone heads like you can read.

  12. MKE kid says:

    WCD: If you were employed in “pain management” in nursing homes, that explains how dysfunctional the “health care” is in the US compared to the rest of “developed nations.” Just push pills at them.
    I visit nursing homes and VA care facilities with my therapy dog. You so remind me of the crabby and perpetually angry old geezers who’s kids have abandoned them. The angry old geezers just sit in a corner and stew in their hatred.
    Most vets are super cool about things and welcome our visits. I love visiting them and love sharing their lives with us.

  13. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    MKE, that was the most incoherent pile of crap have read in years.
    WE did Rehab in 6,000 beds. We strictly controlled pain meds.

  14. Terry says:

    @WCD, industrial cannabis emp, used for rope and textiles did not kill anyone neither did cannabis sativa/indica. Sorry. Perhaps younshould focus your anger and hate on the real killers in Wisconsin, alcohol and opioids. Legalize it Wisconsin. Write your reps today!

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