Oct 112011

Though Gov. Jerry Brown called federal regulation of industrial hemp plants “absurd,” potential enforcement of those regulations ultimately led to his veto of state Senate Bill 676, which would have allowed hemp cultivation in four California counties, including Kern, as part of an eight-year pilot program.

Supporters of the bill said the federal categorization of industrial hemp plants as the same as marijuana plants is woefully outdated, Jill Cowan reports in the Bakersfield Californian. The fact that industrial hemp is imported for legal products means Californians are missing out on a cash crop, advocates say.

Opponents said the bill would make it more confusing for law enforcement to bust marijuana grows and — law enforcement issues aside — industrial hemp cultivation is still illegal under federal law.

In a Sunday veto message, the governor supported a “change in federal law,” adding that “products made from hemp — clothes, food and bath products — are legally sold in California every day.”

But until federal law changes, Brown said allowing the pilot program proposed in the bill to move forward would have subjected California farmers to federal prosecution.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who wrote the bill, said the program “was a real opportunity for the governor to create jobs and help California’s farmers in a very desperate time.”

Furthermore, Leno said the federal pre-emption argument is weak.

“The governor supports the production of medical marijuana — that’s no less illegal under federal law,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we want to pass another law to help California farms grow another cannabis sativa plant — one that’s not even a drug?”

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