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HARTFORD, CT — Lawmakers in Connecticut approved a bill Wednesday aimed legalizing industrial hemp cultivation in the state.

The Senate voted 36-0 to approve the measure, House Bill 5780, which previously passed the House by a vote of 142-2.

Once enacted, the bill will allow Connecticut to begin industrial hemp pilot and research programs through the Department of Agriculture and the state’s higher education institutions, in accordance with new federal regulations introduced last year.

The bill defines industrial hemp as cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) on a dry weight basis.

Hemp products are already legal in the United States, but only if the hemp is imported from the more than 30 countries that legally grow it.   Last year, members of Congress relaxed some federal restrictions on hemp cultivation by approving language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill that explicitly authorizes states to sponsor hemp research and pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant.

Over 20 states have adopted similar hemp laws.

In 2014 U.S. consumers purchased more than $640 million worth of hemp products, representing market growth of 3% since 2014.

Hemp is a durable natural fiber, a nutritious food product for humans and pets, a superior building material, and has thousands of other known uses. A hemp crop needs half the water alfalfa uses, is a great rotation crop to use after legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil and it can be grown without heavy use of pesticides.

Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing.  The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop on a large scale, according to the Congressional Resource Service.

Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.

The majority of hemp sold in the United States is imported from China and Canada, the world’s largest exporters of the crop.

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