The Alaska Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday that would legalize the growth and sale of hemp.


Senate Bill 6’s sponsor, Sen. Shelley Hughes, explained that her bill would change how the law defines hemp — as a separate agricultural product from marijuana, removing it from the state’s list of controlled substances.


“The commercial possibilities of hemp are numerous and versatile,” Hughes said in a statement. “Hemp can be used for fiber products, such as clothing and paper, as well as for building materials and insulation, among thousands of other products.”


Industrial hemp is Cannabis Sativa L. While that plant is commonly referred to as marijuana, hemp has less of the active intoxicant tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC. More specifically, a THC level of .3 percent or lower, under Hughes’ bill.


According to Hughes, a number of scientific studies show that the intoxication threshold is 1 percent.


“Clearly, the definition of hemp in this bill is well below these levels,” she wrote. “This definition of hemp is in accordance with the federal 2014 Farm Bill and the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2016, which allows for the transportation, processing and sale of hemp from compliant programs.”


Hughes said the bill was requested by Alaska farmers, who want to use hemp for “nutritious animal feed.”


The bill is bound for the Alaska House of Representatives next for further consideration. If her bill is passed, new regulations would be put into place allowing Alaskans to register to grow and sell hemp that has been tested to ensure it is below the maximum THC level.


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