A bill that would allow the production of industrial hemp in Minnesota appears to have lost momentum in the state House.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, has been pushing for more than a decade to allow farmers to grow hemp for products like paper and rope. Hemp has a much lower THC concentration than marijuana.
Kahn’s bill, which she touted as a way to grow jobs in Minnesota, got off to a fast start. A bipartisan group of 30 co-authors signed on, including Agriculture Committee Chairman Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake. The bill passed on a voice vote in Hamilton’s committee on March 9.
The bill, however, hasn’t made it out of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, where Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, vowed to defeat the bill.
The measure doesn’t appear to have a life in either the House or Senate agriculture budget bills that are moving through the Legislature.
“It seems like a good thing on the surface,” one lobbyist said. “But once you get into the weeds, law enforcement goes bananas and the federal government doesn’t allow it. The hearing [in the Agriculture Committee] was pretty much a courtesy to Representative Kahn.”
In the Senate, an industrial hemp bill didn’t surface until two weeks ago and hasn’t had a hearing.
A different issue — allowing seriously ill people to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes — has likewise shown no signs of life in 2011. Kahn introduced a medical marijuana bill, which had an informational committee hearing without a vote. The lack of activity related to medical marijuana contrasts with previous legislative sessions in which the issue had several committee hearings and garnered bipartisan support.