Oregon’s House of Representatives voted Monday night to legalize the cultivation of hemp, becoming the sixth state to do so just this year.
Oregon’s Senate voted 27 to 2 in favor of the new law last week. Monday’s 46 to 11 House vote means that the measure will become law, barring an unlikely veto by Governor Ted Kulongoski.
The move is part of a rapidly growing nationwide trend to liberalize laws relating to marijuana. Hemp is a botanical cousin of marijuana, traditionally used to make clothing, rope and other durable fiber goods.
“Hemp is a versatile, environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown in the U.S. for over fifty years because of a misguided and politicized interpretation of the nation’s drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Administration,” Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra said in a statement.
“While a new bill in Congress, HR 1866, is a welcome step, the hemp industry is hopeful that President Obama’s administration will recognize hemp’s myriad benefits to farmers, businesses and the environment.”
According to Vote Hemp, this year Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Vermont and ”all passed resolutions or memorials urging Congress to allow states to regulate hemp farming.”
California is at the forefront of the marijuana debate, with a movement growing to decriminalize marijuana for personal use in the state by 2010.
But in Oregon’s debate, politicians were careful to distinguish between hemp and weed, and to highlight the fact that the new law would allow farmers to cultivate hemp, not grow marijuana.
Some members of Oregon’s legislature displayed t-shirts reading “Senate Bill 676 is about rope, not dope.”