Editorial:

Growing hemp makes sense

Opportunities abound with crop

Posted

Highlighting its potential “to give farmers an opportunity to grow a crop they can set their own prices with,” state Rep. Bunky Loucks’ legislation to legalize the growth and production of hemp in Wyoming, House Bill 171, is one step closer to fruition.

Addressing the state House earlier this month, Loucks, R-Casper, reiterated that industrial hemp manufacturing is “a great opportunity for the state,” with “literally hundreds of farmers [who are] interested.” Many of those interested farmers are right here in Park County, as evidenced by their participation in the discussion at the Heart Mountain Irrigation District’s annual meeting earlier this month.

HB 171 passed the House on a unanimous 60-0 vote, while clearing the Senate by a margin of 26-3. Local Reps. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, David Northrup, R-Powell and Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, all co-sponsored the bill, along with Sens. Hank Coe, R-Cody, and R.J. Kost, R-Powell.

The reason why is simple: Growing hemp makes sense for Wyoming.

Banned under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, industrial hemp had the misfortune of being lumped in with its cousin marijuana, despite its many industrial uses, the ease with which it can be grown and its inability to get you high. Because of its durability and resistance to salt water, folks have been finding uses for hemp in this country since the colonial days; it’s still used in literally thousands of products, many of which are legally made and sold in the United States.

It’s just been illegal to grow it. All that changed in December, when Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, which effectively legalized hemp, though with certain restrictions. And now Wyoming farmers stand poised to cash in, with a chance to beat other potential growing states to the punch. Dozens of other states have enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and permitting hemp cultivation in some way, shape or form.

HB 171 would create a set of rules for growing hemp in this state, and would be a substantial boost to Wyoming’s economy. The diligence shown by our legislators to push HB 171 through shows our forward-thinking elected officials have their eyes on the future, knowing what hemp production could mean to our economy.

Farmers, manufacturers and others are excited about the seemingly unlimited possibilities associated with industrial hemp production. We are, as well. The version of HB 171 that now sits in front of Gov. Mark Gordon includes funds to allow the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to buy the supplies and equipment to get this program going, and going soon.

“We’ve been dragging our feet long enough on this,” said Rep. Stan Blake, D-Green River. “This small amount could lead to thousands, millions of dollars of tax money coming in the future, so let’s do it.”

We wholeheartedly agree.

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