Felons may be al­lowed back in the hemp farm­ing busi­ness

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Les­ley Clark McClatchy Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau

WASH­ING­TON — Peo­ple with felony drug con­vic­tions may be able to grow hemp after all.

A con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sion in the Sen­ate farm bill that bars felons from grow­ing hemp, even as it makes it eas­ier for farm­ers across the na­tion to grow the crop, has been mod­i­fied.

Congress is ex­pected to re­lease fi­nal de­tails of the com­pro­mise bill next week, with a vote shortly af­ter­ward.

The farm bill’s orig­i­nal ver­sion would have banned nearly all drug felons from grow­ing hemp. But ad­vo­cates have learned that thanks to a com­pro­mise, the bill would al­low such felons to grow hemp be­gin­ning 10 years after their con­vic­tion.

Any felons now grow­ing hemp, which was per­mit­ted on a more nar­row ba­sis un­der a 2014 farm bill, would be al­lowed to con­tinue.

Ad­vo­cacy groups were not fully sat­is­fied with the new bill’s likely changes.

“Any ban will still have an ad­verse af­fect on peo­ple with felony con­vic­tions who are try­ing to get their lives back in or­der and would un­fairly lock peo­ple out of new job op­por­tu­ni­ties they des­per­ately need,” said Grant Smith, deputy di­rec­tor of na­tional af­fairs for the pro-le­gal­iza­tion Drug Pol­icy Al­liance.

A spokes­woman for Sen. Ron Wy­den, a co-spon­sor of the hemp leg­is­la­tion, said the Ore­gon Demo­crat was an ar­chi­tect of the new felony com­pro­mise.

Wy­den told McClatchy in July that he wanted hemp treated like ev­ery other agri­cul­tural crop, which means no bans on who can grow.

The tweak to the felony pro­vi­sion comes amid stiff op­po­si­tion to a blan­ket ban from a group of Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress, along with hemp in­dus­try ad­vo­cates and groups that back ef­forts to over­haul the na­tion’s crim­i­nal jus­tice laws.

“No other agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties in the U.S. have this type of re­stric­tion,” Sen. Rand Paul, RKy., said, in one of two let­ters he wrote to House and Sen­ate farm bill ne­go­tia­tors in op­po­si­tion to the sweep­ing felon ban.

Paul was the lead Repub­li­can co-spon­sor on a Wy­den bill to le­gal­ize hemp in 2012, the first Sen­ate hemp bill.

The farm bill com­pro­mise mir­rors sev­eral states’ reg­u­la­tions, said Colleen Kea­hey Lanier, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Hemp In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion. Lanier said she was pleased that law­mak­ers were will­ing to soften the re­stric­tions, but said the felony re­stric­tion con­tin­ues to pose an un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion against the crop.

The orig­i­nal felony pro­vi­sion was in­cluded in an amend­ment sub­mit­ted by Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., a ma­jor cham­pion of ex­pand­ing in­dus­trial hemp.

McCon­nell, who rou­tinely tells au­di­ences that hemp is dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from its “il­licit cousin” mar­i­juana, did not in­clude the felony pro­vi­sion in his orig­i­nal leg­is­la­tion, but ac­cepted it after hear­ing from the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The hemp pro­vi­sion in the farm bill, a de­tailed mea­sure that spells out fed­eral agri­cul­ture pol­icy, would re­move hemp from the fed­eral list of con­trolled sub­stances, giv­ing each state the abil­ity to al­low farm­ers to grow it legally.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.