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Washington Senate Votes To Legalize Hemp Farming As Oregon Starts Writing Permits

File photo of a hemp field outside Southminster, England.
Glyn Baker
Creative Commons
File photo of a hemp field outside Southminster, England.

The Washington state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to make hemp farming legal. The measure now goes to the state House for further consideration.

State Senator Brian Hatfield said the plant cousin of marijuana has "tremendous potential" as a crop.

"This is legalizing hemp, which is the non-drug form,” he said. “Once Initiative 502 passed that opened marijuana up for recreational use, it certainly I think makes sense to most of us that hemp be legal in the state."

Hemp crops yield oil, fiber and seeds that can be processed into a wide variety of consumer products.

Oregon lawmakers approved hemp farming in 2009, but it took until this week for the Oregon Department of Agriculture to begin accepting applications for grower and handler permits.

The pending legalization measure in neighboring Washington would not require farmers to get a state permit.

Federal law still forbids cultivation of the cannabis plant, which includes hemp. Advocates are hopeful federal drug agents will leave industrial hemp farmers alone. The Hemp Industries Association says growers in three states -- Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont -- harvested crops without interference last year.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.