LANSING- Two Republican House Representatives have introduced bills to allow research on industrial hemp in Michigan. One problem: they'll have to redefine marijuana to get the proposed program to pass.
HB 5439 and HB 5440, were just assigned bill numbers and are not on the Michigan government's website yet. One bill will enact a new definition of marijuana that separates non-intoxicating industrial hemp from standard strains of medicinal marijuana; the other will adjust the agriculture laws to remove prohibitions on research and cultivation of the multi-purpose plant.
Sponsored by Reps. Kevin Daley (R- Lum) and Peter Petallia (R- Presque Isle) the bills arrive in the legislature just a little too late to allow Michigan to participate in a new federal program to explore the reintroduction of commercial hemp plantations to the United States. Ten states that had existing hemp laws at the time of the program's launch. That provision was signed into law by President Obama as part of the Farm Bill in a ceremony in Michigan on Feb. 17.
"Hemp can save Michigan's economy," said Steven Sharpe, one of the men most responsible for getting the bills introduced in the Michigan legislature. Sharpe, from Jackson County, has been active in pushing for pro-hemp actions in Lansing- and in Washington, D.C. "I am going to help make Michigan Grow," Sharpe quipped. "We will create careers in a new hemp industry."
The other man who can be credited with pushing industrial hemp in Michigan is Everett Swift, the director of the Michigan Industrial Hemp Education and Marketing Project, also known as MIHEMP. "This is a great step forward for Michigan," Swift said. Swift and Sharpe both participated in a discussion at the American Rights Conference in Lansing regarding industrial hemp and the possibility of new legislation was raised at that time.
Michigan is about to preview a motion picture documentary regarding hemp production. On Friday evening in Detroit, the movie "Bringing It Home" will be aired at the Pony Ride theater; it will be shown in Jackson at the Michigan Theater on Thursday April 10.
The news comes as Michigan is about to celebrate three of its largest marijuana-related events of the year: Hash Bash and the Monroe Street Fair (April 5, Ann Arbor) and the Medical Marijuana Expo at the Roostertail (March 28-30, Detroit).
For Sharpe, this announcement could not have come at a better time. He plans to launch his candidacy for the Michigan House after submitting his final paperwork to the state next week. Sharpe seeks the office currently held by Representative Shirkey in the 65th District, who will be seeking a Senate position. Sharpe will run as a Republican and will campaign on a pro-hemp platform.
"Due to an accident it is taking me an extra week or so to get the paperwork done," Sharpe told TCC. His arm is in a cast from a break suffered on a recent trip.
For Swift this is the culmination of years of hard work. Swift and the MIHEMP organization have secured resolutions of support for industrial hemp from several counties in the northern portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula- including Presque Isle.
"Since the bills are for research only we still have a lot of work to do to get a farming bill in Michigan," Swift said, in an exclusive interview. "This is the first time ever we have a real possibility of having an industrial hemp bill passed in our state. We have made amazing progress in the last few years."
Hemp is well known for its ability to be used as a food, as fuel, as fiber and as a rotation crop. Hemp has been used in Chernobyl and Fukishima as a cleansing crop to eliminate radiation poisoning from the soil. America imports more than $500 million in industrial hemp from other nations, primarily China and Canada.
Once the actual language of the bills becomes public The Compassion Chronicles will post them, with additional comments.
UPDATE: Both bills have been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. The sponsors for the hemp bills have been announced. Sponsor for HB 5440 is: Rep. Petallia. Co-sponsoring HB 5440 are:
Kevin Daley, Frank Foster, Tim Kelly, Pat Somerville, Gail Haines, Al Pscholka, Roger Victory, Dan Lauwers,Joel Johnson, Earl Poleski, Thomas F. Stallworth III, Ken Yonker, Bill LaVoy, Dave Pagel, Rob VerHeulen, Paul Muxlow, Bradford C. Jacobsen,Cindy Denby, Matt Lori, Bruce R. Rendon, Andrea M. LaFontaine, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, Ed McBroom, Tom McMillin, Bob Genetski, Hugh D. Crawford, Robert L. Kosowski, Jon Bumstead, Terry L. Brown, Kevin Cotter, Sam Singh, Mike Shirkey, Eileen Kowall, Harvey Santana,Sarah Roberts, Rose Mary C. Robinson, Dian Slavens, Marcia Hovey-Wright, Andrew J. Kandrevas, Sean McCann, Vicki Barnett, George T. Darany, Pam Faris, Fred Durhal, Jr., Alberta Tinsley Talabi, Jim Townsend, Phil Phelps, Henry Yanez, Jon Switalski, Jeff Irwin, John Kivela,Scott Dianda, Tom Cochran, Douglas A. Geiss, Andy Schor, Woodrow Stanley, Phil Potvin, Wayne A. Schmidt, Mike Callton, Michael D. McCready, Ben Glardon, Greg MacMaster, Stacy Erwin Oakes
Sponsor for HB 5439 is Rep. Daley. Co-Sponsoring HB 5439 are:
Dan Lauwers, Peter Pettalia, Frank Foster, Terry L. Brown, Tim Kelly, Al Pscholka, Eileen Kowall, Matt Lori, Bruce R. Rendon, Andrea M. LaFontaine, Cindy Denby, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, Dave Pagel, Bradford C. Jacobsen, Vicki Barnett, Douglas A. Geiss,Henry Yanez, Roger Victory, Joel Johnson, Mike Callton, Tom McMillin