On July 11, the US House of Representatives passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, which includes an amendment that will legalize hemp production for research purposes. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sponsored the amendment to the bill, which will allow colleges and universities to cultivate hemp in states where it is already legal. The FARRM bill had previously failed, but was taken up again with the amendment and passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 216 to 208.

Current US federal law considers hemp a controlled substance subject to the same laws that govern marijuana. To date, 31 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation, and 19 have passed pro-hemp laws. Farmers in several of those states are awaiting permission to grow industrial hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Although many state legislatures have authorized hemp, federal law prohibits hemp cultivation, so hemp farmers risk being raided by federal agents, having their assets seized and even possible prison time.

Rep. Blumenauer, co-sponsor of the pro-hemp amendment, stated that the FARRM bill as a whole disappointed him, but he is glad to see restrictions on hemp eased. He said, “Our fear of industrial hemp is misplaced — it is not a drug. By allowing colleges and universities to cultivate hemp for research, Congress sends a signal that we are ready to examine hemp in a different and more appropriate context.”