TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Declan O’Scanlon that would promote the study and cultivation of industrial hemp in New Jersey advanced from the full Senate today.
“The quality and growing popularity of hemp products across the country can offer a lucrative agricultural industry in New Jersey,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “The ability to grow hemp on an industrial scale would allow our farmers to diversify their products by adding a new and profitable cash crop. By researching cultivation methods, we can provide the necessary assistance to farmers seeking to grow hemp for the first time.”
The bill, S-2491, would direct the Department of Agriculture to create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program for researching cultivation of the crop to the maximum extent permitted by federal law. Industrial hemp is used in a wide variety of products including textiles, construction materials, and foodstuffs.
The bill would allow the department to partner with any qualified institution of higher education to administer the program; however, any person participating in the program must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Agriculture that the person has complied with all federal requirements related to the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The department would also be required to adopt rules and regulations to administer the program. These would include creating requirements for the licensing or contracting of growers participating in the program, prescribing hemp testing procedures to ensure compliance with federal law, creating a fee structure for administration of the program, and certifying germinating seeds and hemp cultivars if necessary. Any rule or regulation adopted by the department must comply with federal law.
The bill also amends various sections of statutory law to ensure that any person validly participating in the agricultural pilot program is exempted from crimes and penalties related to the purchase, sale, or cultivation of marijuana, as the statutory definitions of “marijuana” frequently encompass hemp.
The bill was released from the full Senate by a vote of 33-2.