Two bills sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora to enable the cultivation of industrial hemp in New Jersey advanced on Friday.
The first bill deals with issues surrounding the cultivating, harvesting, processing, distribution and trade aspects of industrial hemp within the state. The second bill establishes the framework for industrial hemp licenses relating to carrying out the aforementioned activities.
Assemblyman Gusciora said New Jersey is missing out on its share of the lucrative industrial hemp market; which was estimated to have reached $400 million in last year in the USA alone. Consumer sales of hemp products are expected to hit $500 million in 2015.
“More than 20 industrial hemp-producing countries worldwide each generate millions of dollars in revenue selling everything from fabrics to personal care products made from one of the world’s oldest crops,” he said. “We cannot continue to allow misconceptions about the hemp industry to govern decision-making when an opportunity to create good jobs and expand our economy is on the line.”
So far, thirteen U.S. states have statutes enabling the establishment of commercial industrial hemp programs. Seven states have passed legislation for programs that limited to agricultural or academic research purposes.
Assemblyman Gusciora said the legislation will motivate the U.S. federal government to take action in permitting domestic production of industrial hemp, a precondition that needs to be fulfilled before licenses can be issued in New Jersey.
“This common-sense legislation paves the way for our state to enter the market as soon as the federal government unlocks the door,” he said.
The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law in 2010. Last year, 2,057 qualifying patients and 304 caregivers registered with the program.
There are currently six alternative treatment centers in New Jersey authorized to grow and provide registered qualifying patients with medicinal marijuana and associated products.
Approved debilitating medical conditions under the program include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease and terminal illnesses where the patient has less than 12 months to live.
Also covered are conditions resistant to, or if the patient is intolerant to, conventional treatments; such as seizure disorders, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity and glaucoma.
Medical marijuana may also be made available to alleviate the side effects of treatments relating to HIV, AIDS and cancer.