By Michael Dresser
The Baltimore Sun
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Advocates for industrial hemp in Maryland hope this is the year they can overcome the hemp plant’s association with marijuana and win passage of a bill that would make it legal to grow and process it in the state.
The Baltimore Sun
The industrial hemp plant has a lot of boosters.
They praise it for its hardiness and versatility. They say its oils yield food and medicine, its fibers produce clothing and plastic-like auto parts. They contend that when planted strategically, it can absorb manure and other pollutants before they flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
So why is it contraband, they ask?
Advocates for industrial hemp hope this is the year they can overcome the hemp plant’s association with marijuana and win passage of a bill that would make it legal to grow and process in Maryland.
At a forum Friday in Annapolis, they expressed confidence this will be the year state lawmakers join a growing national movement to distinguish hemp’s industrial version from the plant beloved by millions of potheads.
“Hemp is an extremely useful plant and hemp isn’t about getting stoned,” said Rona Kobell, who wrote a report for the Abell Foundation making the case for the plant in Maryland. “There’s no reason it should be illegal.”
But illegal it is at the federal level and in most states, Maryland among them. While a growing number of states have dropped their statutory prohibitions on growing industrial hemp and processing it for use in products, Maryland law still treats the plants as identical to their buzz-producing cannabis cousins.
Kobell, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who moderated the forum in a dress and boots made of hemp, said Maryland has missed the opportunity to be first in developing a homegrown hemp industry but still has time to avoid being last.
She noted that conservative-leaving Kentucky is moving forward with developing a hemp industry with the support of Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Another 18 states — including Virginia and Pennsylvania — have given the green light to hemp, notwithstanding federal law. Unless the state bill passes, Maryland law would change only if Congress ends the federal prohibition.