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Wash. Senate Votes To Legalize Hemp Farming As Oregon Starts Writing Permits

Kristen Wyatt
AP Photo
FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2013 photo, a man looks at hemp seeds at a farm in Springfield, Colo.


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

State Sen. 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.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.