- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An Anchorage lawmaker has proposed to make hemp an agricultural crop in Alaska.

Democratic Sen. Johnny Ellis said he decided to introduce the bill, which he had been considering for several years, after seeing bipartisan support for hemp in last year’s federal farm bill.

“The previous marijuana hysteria sort of cut off our farmers,” Ellis said, adding he wants to see if Alaska farmers can experiment with hemp and possibly benefit from a new crop, the Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/1u3n9hL).

Ellis filed the bill ahead of the upcoming legislative session, scheduled to start Jan. 20.

Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that lacks the high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC found in marijuana. Hemp seeds and fibers can be used to make products such as clothing, food and paper. But the U.S. imports most of its hemp products from Canada, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. And since hemp is considered a controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a permit is required from the DEA to cultivate it.

Ellis said just how Alaska would go about permitting hemp - whether, for example, permits would be issued to individuals or to the institutions laid out in the farm bill - would be discussed during the committee process.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states currently allow production of hemp in some capacity.

The federal farm bill allowed colleges and universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp in pilot programs.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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