Medical marijuana, and in a few cases even recreational pot, is now legal in about 20 states across the land. California went medical in 1996. So what's the problem with using low- or even no-THC hemp for clothing, building materials and even food?

A California lawmaker wants to open the door to legal hemp cultivation in the Golden State. Sen. Mark Leno's office announced today that he has introduced a bill, SB 566, that would …

… permit growers in the Golden State to cultivate industrial hemp for the sale of seed, oil and fiber to manufacturers and businesses that currently rely on international imports for raw hemp products.

Even if it passed, however, the bill would be moot. For now.

The U.S. government has a ban on hemp cultivation. Leno's office says the law, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, “go into effect once the federal government lifts its ban on hemp cultivation.”

Two bills that would legalize and regulate industrial hemp cultivation in states that want to go there are working their way through congress.

What's the harm, anyway? Is some teenager going to try to smoke his hemp shoes?

Leno calls his proposal the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act. He says:

Credit: Chris H / Flickr

Credit: Chris H / Flickr

Industrial hemp, which is already found in hundreds of consumer products manufactured in our state, is a perfect crop for California. It has great potential to revitalize family farms, create new jobs and stimulate the economy.

Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, says the bill would “lower our dependence on Canada and China for hemp imports.”

Meanwhile, Leno's office offered up some cool history on hemp:

The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic with sails made of hemp, and both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp, which was legal tender until the early 1800s. Today, industrial hemp is used to manufacture thousands of food, clothing, personal care products and building materials. The nation's hemp market is currently valued at $500 million annually, and more than 50% of the nation's hemp product companies are based in California.

Time to legalize it (again)?

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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