Two pro-hemp bills passed a Michigan House Committee by unanimous vote.
The two hemp-based bills are HB 5439, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Daley, R- Arcadia Township, and HB 5440, sponsored by Rep. Peter Pettalia, R- Presque Isle. Both bills were introduced on March 27 and were assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. HB 5440 would insert a definition of industrial hemp in the Public Health Code and make it distinct from marijuana and the laws that govern the use of that plant. HB 5439 is the Industrial Hemp Research Act; it would establish a hemp research program under the direction of Michigan's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and create the framework for federal grant money to fund that research.
HB 5440 has over 60 co-sponsors, a remarkable feat for a bill during this contentious time in the Michigan legislature when the left and the right can find no agreement on major issues. HB 5439 has more than a dozen co-sponsors; both bills enjoy bipartisan support.
The bills passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on May 13. Per Sharpe, the Michigan State Police have asked for an amendment to resolve questions regarding the proper transportation of hemp and how officers on the roadside will be able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. The provisions have been agreed to and an amendment will be introduced when the bills are considered by the full House.
"We have until June 12 which is the last date before the summer break," Sharpe said. "If they can fit it in it'll probably be next Wednesday (May 21)."
The amendment was created to avoid the chaos seen in Kentucky, where a shipment of industrial hemp seeds has been held up by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The seeds originated in Italy and were destined for newly-authorized hemp research farm at the University of Kentucky. The 250 lb. package of seeds has been used in a tug of war between state officials and federal authorities that emphasized the ongoing- an unnecessary- confusion over the legal status of hemp.
Citizen activism has driven these bills and that activism comes in the form of Steve Sharpe, a Board Member of Michigan NORML, and Everett Swift, Director of Michigan Hemp. Both men appeared on PGT Episode 192 and discussed the federal farm bill and the Michigan legislation. Sharpe appeared on The Planet Green Trees radio show during the May 15th broadcast and discussed the progress of the two hemp bills in Michigan's legislature.
Rep. Daley appeared on the Planet Green Trees radio show previously to discuss the hemp bill he authored and the companion bill. Rep. Daley is a longtime Lapeer County farmer and his family has continuously farmed the same property since the 1850-s, recalled Komorn. While admitting that the Representative did not confirm or deny it, show host Michael Komorn speculated that hemp was grown on the Daley family farm "just like corn, wheat, other crops" at some point in the past 150 years.
"This whole discussion is coming about because the federal government passed a hemp farming bill which allowed for 'research,'" Komorn explained. Without a hemp bill like the ones proposed by Reps. Daley and Pettalia, Michigan cannot participate in the federal research program.
Although Rep. Daley suggested that hemp would be grown only at research institutions, Komorn and Sharpe discussed the Michigan Department of Agriculture may be empowered to assign individual farmers the opportunity to grow hemp for that research purpose if Universities cannot meet the research project's need for hemp plants.
"We as a state (have to) get our higher education to research this," Sharpe explained.
"In our great state of Michigan no one is talking about jobs, no one is talking about industry, no none is talking about new farming culture or new cash crops," Komorn observed.