Industrial hemp considered

Industrial hemp could be grown in Nebraska under a bill discussed in a Judiciary Committee hearing Feb. 12.

LB1001, introduced by Cortland Sen. Norm Wallman, would allow industrial hemp to be grown in Nebraska for commercial purposes. Only plants containing one percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient of the cannabis plant, would be approved for use.

Those wishing to grow hemp would be required to obtain a license from the state Department of Agriculture and submit fingerprints and other information to the Nebraska State Patrol. A legal description of the land to be used for production also would be required. Individuals with a prior criminal conviction would not be eligible.

LB1001 would direct the department to create regulations for licensing, testing for THC levels and documenting seed varieties.

Wallman said industrial hemp is a sustainable energy source that can be used in a wide variety of products, so Nebraska should join nine other states in investigating the plant’s economic benefits.

“I believe there is a market for this product and I’d like to see Nebraska jump in at the beginning and start testing it to see if it would be good for our state,” he said.

Wallman said the bill is not intended to begin the process of legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

“Yes, [hemp and marijuana] both come from the cannabis plant, but that is where the similarities end,” he said.

Bill Hawkins, an organic farmer, testified in support of LB1001. He said growing and marketing industrial hemp would revitalize Nebraska communities by creating jobs and locally-produced goods. Hemp also has ecological benefits, Hawkins said.

“Industrial hemp is a drought-resistant, weed-suppressing, soil-building crop that will give our farmers a much needed rotation in their corn and soybeans,” he said.

UNL student Jason Feldman said wall panels made from hemp are a durable, healthy and sustainable alternative to traditional building materials. Speaking in support of the bill, Feldman said it is expensive to import hemp to the United States and LB1001 would allow him to make the product locally.

“The market would be transformed if we can grow the material here in Nebraska and build homes with this material,” Feldman said.

Grant County Sheriff Shawn Hebbert provided neutral testimony on the bill. He said marijuana is a quickly spreading weed that may be difficult to control when grown in large amounts and may cause conflicts between neighboring landowners. He was also concerned about the potential health risks involved in fighting hemp field fires.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on LB1001.

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