Legislation is advancing in the Arkansas House of Representatives that would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the state.
A bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. David Hillman of Almyra, allows for the production of and research on the hemp plant. On a voice vote, HB1778 passed out of the Arkansas House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development on Friday.
Hemp is a subset of the cannabis sativa plant and a close cousin of marijuana, although it doesn’t contain the same concentrations of the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that makes a person high.
The U.S. has historically classified hemp as a Schedule 1 drug, making its production illegal. However, the federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as the Farm Bill) allowed states to develop pilot programs for research on the plant, which can be used for textiles, clothing, food and other industrial purposes.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 20 states have passed laws to develop industrial hemp research programs. Under Hillman’s proposed legislation, the Arkansas Plant Board would develop rules and regulations for research into hemp production and administer licenses to farmers who choose to grow it. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service would also oversee the hemp research program.