House Bill 1888, sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), would allow the state to issue licenses to industrial hemp growers.
Shea introduced the legislation after learning that the state imports a large amount of sisal twine made from hemp to tie up vineyards and hop fields. The twine is one of many products the state imports from countries like Indonesia, where hemp production is legal.
“Industrial hemp is a kissing cousin of hops. Why don’t we grow it here, create a new agricultural industry in the state of Washington so we can supply our own sisal twine,” Shea said.
Although the U.S. doesn’t allow the production of industrial hemp, it is a leading importer of hemp products like clothing, paper, fabric, rope, fuel, soaps and shampoos.
Many other states – Montana, Hawaii, Kentucky, Vermont, Maryland and West Virginia – are considering similar legislation this year.
Federal legislation has also been introduced to clarify the difference between industrial hemp and cannabis used for smoking. The bill would also authorize Washington State University to start an industrial hemp research program.
“The economic impact of a crop like this in Washington State is in the tens of millions of dollars and instead of importing, I think it is time indeed to start growing our own industrial hemp,” Shea said.
The bill passed unanimously and will now head to the House Rules Committee for consideration.