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New Farm Bill Promotes Hemp Growth: Will it Normalize Marijuana?

Feb 05, 2014 10:48 AM EST | By Catherine Griffin (
Medical Marijuana, Marijuana

It turns out that hemp is getting a bit of a push from the new five-year Farm Bill. Once President Obama signs the bill that won passage in the Senate on Tuesday, industrial hemp will be able to be grown for research purposes--as long as the state permits the cultivation of the plant.

Hemp is marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin. It can be used to make everything from clothing to cooking oil, according to Al Jazeera. In theory, it could be cultivated in 10 states under the new bill, including California, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont and Maine.

It's perhaps not surprising that hemp may finally be able to be legally grown within the United States. More and more states are legalizing marijuana. In fact, marijuana sales became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1, according to USA Today. In addition, Massachusetts recently awarded the first 20 licenses to operate medical marijuana dispensaries, according to SF Gate.

Hemp was first banned by the government in 1937 as part of the war on marijuana. While hemp couldn't be legally grown, though, it could be imported. In fact, retail sales of hemp in the U.S. total about a half-billion dollars per year, according to SF Gate. The new push for hemp, though, shows that opinions are changing when it comes to marijuana.

"One the one hand, I think it's part of a larger agenda to normalize marijuana, by a few," said Kevin Sabet, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, in an interview with Al Jazeera. "On the other hand, will it have any difference at the end of the day? I would be highly skeptical of that."

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