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Farm Bill Would Open Door for Hemp Growing in Maine
01/30/2014 10:30 AM ET  

Growing hemp is already legal in Maine, but final enactment of the Farm Bill, which is expected to be approved in the U.S. Senate, would remove a federal ban, if the current version of the bill survives.

Maine could soon see some hemp-growing operations. The Farm Bill the U.S. House endorsed Wednesday contains a provision that opens the door for growing the weed - a relative of marijuana that has traditionally been used to make rope, fabric and other products, and doesns't get people high.

Growing hemp is already legal in Maine, but final enactment of the Farm Bill, which is expected to be approved in the U.S. Senate, would remove a federal ban, if the current version of the bill survives.

"Any time a huge piece of federal legislation is enacted, there are things that surprise you" - and the hemp provision is one of them, says John Rebar, executive director of University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Rebar says a study conducted in 2003 concluded that hemp could be a possible crop for Maine, but that more study was needed. However, with federal bans in place, the extension service never cultivated a crop or studied the issue further. Whether they'll do so now, says Rebar, remains to be seen.

"So we'll have to take some time to understand it and its implications," Rebar says. "Because the Universityof Maine is part of a land-grant system, how are the other institutions across the nation going to be responding to this same situation?"

Rebar says it's a matter of determining whether a hemp industry is a realistic possibility or not for Maine.

The language in the bill allows colleges, universities and state departments of agriculture to grow test plots of hemp for industrial uses. Proponents say it's the first step in toward large scale cultivation.

The Farm Bill still faces one final Senate vote.

This story was reported and written by Jennifer Mitchell.



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