Industrial hemp bill could be introduced in the Louisiana legislature this spring

BATON ROUGE, La. – (KNOE) The Louisiana legislative session doesn’t start until April 6th but already there’s talk of a bill to legalize industrial Hemp. Hemp is a cousin to marijuana but you can’t get “high” off hemp.

A workshop on industrial hemp in New Orleans. | Photo: KNOE

Industrial hemp is part of the Cannabis plant species that is grown specifically for industrial uses, like fiber, plastics, asphalt, and even clothing. Hemp is not a mind-altering drug.

“We think there are some opportunities with our farmers to grow industrial hemp. It cannot have above .3 percent THC in it. So we have some farmers we talked to are very interested,” said Dr. Bill Richardson, Vice President of Agriculture for LSU.

But growing hemp is illegal in Louisiana. You harvest hemp from the stalk. So a law legalizing it would have to pass the legislature for it to be an option for producers.

“It’s going to be a big process of education where we in agriculture, not just the urban legislators but everybody watching this process, what industrial hemp does for the citizens and farmers of Louisiana,” said Joe Mapes, Legislative Specialist with Louisiana Farm Bureau.

Joe Mapes with Louisiana Farm Bureau has been researching the possibility of industrial hemp as a rotation crop for Louisiana farmers. Recently, at the American Farm Bureau convention in New Orleans, a workshop on industrial hemp had a standing room only crowd. But he admits it will an uphill battle.

“We’ve got some social issues attached with it. That’s what we’re going to have to pass first. Could have a law if things go well,” said Mapes.

But the first hurdle to jump would be getting the bill through agriculture committee. Senator Francis Thompson of Delhi is the chairman of the Senate agriculture committee. He says at this time he couldn’t support such a bill.

“We gotta make sure that it’s not something that would cause our kids to be involved like marijuana for recreation use and I’m afraid that something of the interests from out of state may not have our best interest in mind,” said Senator Francis Thompson of Delhi.