If state Sens. Mike Folmer and Judith Schwank have their way, the plant that lent its name to East and West Hempfield townships could once again grow here.
“We will shortly be introducing legislation to permit the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania,” the two wrote in a recent memo. “Although federal law for decades prohibited the cultivation and growth of cannabis without distinguishing industrial hemp from the psychoactive forms, the federal Farm Bill of 2014 now authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp.”
More than a dozen states permit such production, the memo says, and the proposal would add Pennsylvania to those ranks by establishing an industrial hemp licensing board within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Schwank, who represents Berks County, is optimistic about the bill’s chances. It will take a while to figure out how to grow, harvest and market industrial hemp appropriately here, she said, and creating a licensing board is just the first step in that process. She also thinks the debate about legalizing medical marijuana here has raised the public awareness that industrial hemp “has none of the qualities that medicinal cannabis would have.”
Currently it’s legal to use industrial hemp here but not to grow it, which means that Columbia resident Shawn House has to import the starring ingredient in his Hempzels food products from Canada. He would like that to change.
Beyond the fact that locally grown industrial hemp would likely increase his choices and lower his prices, House says, he just thinks its absurd that what he considers an agricultural commodity crop is treated like a drug issue.
House has been a hemp advocate for so long that he has long since stopped making predictions, he says — but the timing would be great if Pennsylvania did give growing industrial hemp the green light this year. This will be his tenth year selling hemp products at the Pennsylvania Farm Show — which runs Jan. 10 to 17 — and he’s going to mark the occasion by adding frozen soft pretzels to his line of retail offerings.
“For nine years we’ve been selling them heated; now people are going to be able to take them home frozen,” House said, adding that he’s working to make them available in grocery stores as well. “ I’m hoping this will be my year.”
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Hemp is deeply rooted in the history of south central Pennsylvania.
Between 1720 to 1870, there were more than 100 water-powered hemp mills in Lancaster and York counties, according to area hemp historian Les Stark. In 1870, Adams County was the second highest producer of the plant, turning out 120 tons of hemp that year. It had faded by 1880, but there was a resurgence of interest in the early 1900s as hundreds of area farmers grew hemp for Hanover Cordage Company, Stark said.
Over the last few years, hemp, a plant that is illegal to grow and process in Pennsylvania, has been on the minds of local and state officials as they work to legalize its use and cultivation, bringing it out of the history books and back into the callused hands of working Americans.
Hemp proponents believe it could be used to produce a litany of products including concrete, motor vehicle parts, food, clothing and environmentally friendly fuel. Legalizing industrial uses of the plant and its cultivation in Pennsylvania, they say, could lead to job creation, economic growth and agricultural sustainability.
Stark has been at the heart of the campaign for years. A Reading man who authored “Hempstone Heritage,” a book series about the plant, Stark has been working with lawmakers across the state to pass hemp reform resolutions and, most recently, a bill.
Two state senators plan to unveil legislation that would permit cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania under the state’s Department of Agriculture.
Full article from Mark Walters and the Evening Sun here.
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Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer, the Lebanon County conservative who emerged this year as the unlikely face of medical marijuana legalization, is getting ready to do battle again when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
In an interview taped for broadcast Sunday on CBS21’s “Face the State” program, Folmer said he’s already scooped up supporters for his bill — including Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.
“We will continue to educate constituents and colleagues on why we should do this,” Folmer told CBS21 anchor Robb Hanrahan.
He said he’s scored some prime legislative real estate — his bill will be known as “Senate Bill 3,” denoting its importance and prestige. In general, the lower the bill number, the more important it is.
Folmer teamed with Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, one of the General Assembly’s most liberal members, to cosponsor a legalization bill during the legislative session that ended last month.
Both men even separately traveled to Colorado, where marijuana sales are legal, to see how the system worked. And, in Leach’s case, to sample some of the local product.
“This is a no-brainer,” Sen. Mike Folmer. The unlikely duo scored a major coup by getting a bill out of the Senate — and the provisional support of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett — but the bill hit a brick wall in the state House.
Things could be different next year when Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who supports medical pot and the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, takes office.
In addition, one of Wolf’s chief lieutenants, incoming Policy Secretary John Hanger, is an ardent legalization supporter.
Folmer said his bill includes language the Senate passed last session. And he’s already hearing from legalization advocates who want him to expand the conditions that would be eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, including glaucoma and fibromyalgia.
The bill got hung up last session with debate over what conditions would be eligible for the treatment.
As he did earlier this year, Folmer said he’s trying to take the partisanship out of the debate and position it as a public health issue.
And with Pennsylvania facing a tide of heroin overdoses, Folmer views medical marijuana as a non-addictive painkiller that would avert the kind of prescription drug abuse that often leads to heroin addiction.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
And with the state set to face a $1.8 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends next June 30, Folmer said he’s come across a sure money-maker: legalizing industrial hemp production in the state.
“There’s a great potential for economic impact in Pennsylvania,” — without raising broad-based taxes, he said.
“Face the State” airs Sunday at 11:30 a.m. on CBS21. PennLive Opinion Editor John L. Micek and “Donkeys & Elephants” columnists Tony May and Charlie Gerow are panelists on the program.
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A lot of people ask what can they do to help us end the prohibition of cannabis and hemp in Pennsylvania.
That’s a great question.
First off, let’s review where we are at this precise moment in time.
1. Tom Wolf was just elected to be the next Governor of Pennsylvania. He was elected on November 4th but he will take office on January 20, 2015. Until that date, the governor is still Tom Corbett.
Tom Wolf supports immediate passage of medical cannabis and he supports statewide decriminalization. He is willing to look at Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and D.C. as they go through their experiments with legalization with an open mind.
Although Tom Wolf is on our side, he CAN NOT do it by himself. If there is not a tremendous grass roots push we can not win. That means each and every one of us has to do our part. We can’t kick back now and wait for Wolf to do it. WE have to do it. That means a multi-pronged approach that directly addresses our legislators and educates the public and gains the support of multiple powerful institutions, community groups and other key influencers of thought and policy.
2. Medical Cannabis. – We fought hard for a year. The first medical cannabis bill ever introduced to Pa. was in 1979! After a 30 year lull another medical cannabis bill was introduced in 2009. Hearings were held on that bill in December of 09 and 2010 but the times just were not right. The bill never made it out of committee. Medical cannabis bills were introduced in the 2011-2012 session but died.
During that time period of 2009-2012 there was not a large medical cannabis “movement” in the state. Although there was a lot of latent support and some noticeable public support it simply did not get enough traction. Philly NORML worked hard on trying to gain support but most of the state was silent.
In November of 2013 there was a large rally for the announcement of new legislation. By this time, a real movement had begun and was picking up a lot of steam, thanks to the Momma Bears joining the fight, Campaign For Compassion and the outstanding work of groups like Philly NORML, The Panic Hour, Pennsylvania Hempland Security, Pittsburgh NORML, and Keystone Cannabis Coalition.
Over this last year we whipped up so much political support for medical cannabis that not only did we have two hearings attended by hundreds of supporters and not only got the bill voted unanimously out of committee but actually PASSED SB 1182 IN THE STATE SENATE!!!
It was a tremendous victory but it was not enough. It needed to pass the House of Representatives and there simply was not enough time. All legislation must be passed during two year legislative cycles. The current one started in the beginning of 2013 and ends at the end of 2014. Anything not passed by now is dead. The time clock has run out and the ship has sailed. BUT, a new ship is waiting in the docks and we are fitting it with new rope and hempen sails to catch the wind of our momentum and propel the cause across the finish line.
It’s almost a good thing that SB 1182 failed. By the time the state senate got through with it, it was so watered down and weak that we wanted it to fail… sort of… There were still pros and cons to both victory or defeat. The next medical cannabis bill has already been announced and received a number. It is called SB 3. Everybody must remember, SB 3. That is where the battle is and that is where the battle must be won.
Because of all of our advances in the past year, our hearings, the rallies and extensive media coverage, astronomical support in poll after poll, resolutions of support from Lancaster and Harrisburg City Councils, and the times rapidly moving ahead all around us, decriminalization in Philadelphia, etc. etc. we have a sincere shot at finally passing a medical cannabis bill in Pennsylvania and Tom Wolf will sign it into law.
Daylin Leach thinks that we may have it passed by the end of March. Is that overoptimistic? Maybe. If so, it will happen by the end of summer. If not by then, maybe by fall but that would be the absolute latest. That means we are from 4-9 months away from FINALLY achieving VICTORY!
Sounds good but it WILL NOT HAPPEN UNLESS EVERYBODY MAKES AN EFFORT TO HELP EDUCATE THE PUBLIC AND PERSUADE OUR LEGISLATORS. Keep in mind, this battle is coming, not some time in the distant future but it is right around the corner! Now is the time to get ready for the final push.
We have two months before Wolf takes office. Use that time to study up on the issue. In these two months, now would be a time to write well written letters to the editor of your local newspapers. Get to know who your state senator is and who your state representative is. Learn who is taking office in January in your district. Learn everything about them. Learn their names, their faces, their political stances, ideologies and philosophical leanings. Use that information to guide your approach in dealing with them.
When the rallies start and the hearings are announced make sure that your physical body is there. We will need to demonstrate rock solid support and strength in numbers.
3. Industrial Hemp. – In the next legislative cycle an industrial hemp bill will be introduced. The bill has been promised to be announced in January. It will then be assigned to a committee and will wait hearings on the subject. We do not know when it will be up for consideration but the goal is to build a coalition of support so that when hearings are held we can ensure that our bill will be passed.
We have no hope that the bill will be passed in time to get seeds in the ground by the coming spring but we MUST pass this bill in time to get seeds into the ground by spring of 2016. Pennsylvania has a long history with hemp and the potential here is enormous. Although we will start off two years on behind states like Colorado and Kentucky, in time we have the potential to become one of the leading hemp producers in the world.
What to do in the meantime – Study up on hemp as much as you can so that you can speak and write on the subject intelligently. Help us to educate the public and our lawmakers. When the bill is announced and given a number then we will push that bill with all of our might. Keystone Cannabis Coalition is making this bill our TOP priority. We are the ones who got the bill introduced and we are working on draft legislation right now. We will keep you updated as we progress on this project.
4. Decriminalization. – Tom Wolf supports decriminalization. Philadelphia has decriminalized possession of cannabis. You can have up to an ounce and if you are caught with it it’s just a $25 fine.
Medical cannabis has consistently polled over 80% support with most recent polls hovering in the 84-85% range. Even still there is a lot of resistance amongst the legislators and we still do not have it done. We can expect that there will be even greater resistance to decriminalization and more of a pushback. Still, we DO have majority support for decrim in Pa. and with Wolf at the top of the ticket it means that if we DO get a bill to his desk it will not be in vain and he WILL sign it.
KCC will be working with Lancaster NORML and whatever community groups want to get involved and we are going to continue the dialogue with Lancaster City Council to get them to adopt a resolution of support for statewide decriminalization. We believe that we will have success and Council WILL pass a resolution.
KCC will also work with the Mayor of Reading and Reading City Council to get a decriminalization law similar to Philadelphia, or, if not possible then we will get a resolution of support for statewide decriminalization. We are also working with some others who will be approaching Wilkes Barre City Council on the subject of decriminalization. We know of others who are working with Harrisburg City Council and we want to put together a team in York as well.
We believe that by working on laws or resolutions of support in many of our cities across the state it will accelerate the speed with which we can get statewide decriminalization.
There is a good chance that in the next legislative cycle there will be multiple decrim bills introduced. We plan on supporting all of them on principle, supporting and pushing the one we like the best and then getting behind whichever one gains the most traction and has the best shot at winning. Once Wolf takes office it could take us as long as a year or a year and a half to get statewide decrim. We have a real opportunity but it will not happen unless there is a statewide effort and mass showing of support and even then there will be resistance. We can do it though.
5. Full Legalization. – Full legalization is the way to go and that is where we are heading. There will be at least one bill introduced by Leach in the state senate for full legalization and there may be others in the House. We support these measures as well but recognize that Pennsylvania is not there yet. During the next two years we have a real shot at medical cannabis, industrial hemp and statewide decriminalization. However I feel the best we can hope for is to keep the issue of full legalization alive and make it a part of the mature political discussion and debate in the state.
It may be too early for Pa. to fully legalize cannabis when they still won’t even let the farmers grow hemp or let cancer patients use cannabis for medicine. That’s a big leap to make in two years. However, it is NOT too early to talk about it. In fact, if we don’t push for it NOW and talk about it and build this movement then we can not win 4 years from now either. These things take time and we are building the movement necessary that will fight that battle with vigor when that battle takes place. Everything we do between now and then is leading up to that battle for justice.
If we get medical cannabis passed by next summer then by summer of 2016 there will already be thousands benefiting from medical cannabis in the state. At that same time, if our legislation has been passed there will be hemp growing also in the soil of Pa. AND, hopefully statewide decriminalization has just gone into effect.
The two year legislative cycle will begin in January of 2015 and end at the end of 2016. Do you know what also will happen at the end of 2016? California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and Arizona will legalize cannabis and a new president will take be elected. There may be 8 more states in all that have full legalization which will bring the total number to 12 states plus D.C. We will be sitting here in Pennsylvania by that time with a functional medical cannabis program, dispensaries, decriminalization and our first hemp harvest under our belts.
THAT IS WHEN THINGS WILL GET INTERESTING HERE IN PA!
That legislative cycle will begin in early 2017 and end at the end of 2018. A bill for full legalization will be introduced here and by then the movement here will have grown by THOUSANDS of people! That is our target for full legalization. It will be in that window of time and opportunity. That is the time when we expect a complete victory and full legalization.
Tom Corbett is the last prohibitionist governor in Pennsylvania. Tom Wolf will go down in history as the man who signed all major cannabis reform legislation into law. He will do this when we have done the required work necessary to help him get there.
So there is a mild lull right now, but there are battles coming up. Get ready. Get prepared. Pick up your swords and fly!
Take some time to think and reflect. Meditate. What are your strengths and weaknesses? We do not necessarily hand out assignments to everybody. There are times when we call for group action and then we all do it together. We will let you know when those times are. There is also a call for a million individual actions that only you know that you can do. Some people can do art, others music. Some are skilled with words and can write well. Others know how to rally and organize. Some are great speakers. Look for openings, find where YOU belong in the scheme of things. Use your talents in the service to this noble and just cause.
Also, please donate what you can to Keystone Cannabis Coalition so that we can continue on with this important work. Our funds are desperately low and we need to raise at least $6,000 over the next few months to carry out our big push for hemp and all the other work we will be doing. Even small donations will help us.
Stay in touch with this group and you will stay up to date with everything that is going on in Pennsylvania. We will be leading the way with our ideas. When others have projects they are working on we will support them and work along with them. When others lead in a good direction we will follow strongly. We do not intend to rest until we have achieved ultimate victory. We intend to bring back cannabis and hemp to Pennsylvania and hasten the day when the national prohibition of cannabis and hemp falls.
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