Rhode Island Industrial Hemp Act Signed Into Law

Industrial hemp in Rhode Island
Image: BigStock

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has signed a bill permitting cultivation, production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in the state.

The medical use and cultivation of marijuana under certain circumstances was already permitted in Rhode Island, but hemp was still off the table.

Originally introduced on May 19, on June 17, Rhode Island’s House passed the amended “Hemp Growth Act” (House Bill 8232 – H8232) unanimously. Then, the following day, the Senate voted 26 – 7 in favour.

Governor Raimondo signed the bill into law yesterday, which will go into effect from the beginning of next year.

Industrial hemp will be treated ad an agricultural crop and regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation. All growers and those handling hemp will be required to have a hemp license issued by the department.

The Act ignores federal regulations that only permit the cultivation of hemp for research by registered research institutions. These regulations have resulted in the United States becoming the largest importer of hemp products, most of which comes from China.

The bill says as states are not required to enforce federal law, it does not put Rhode Island in violation of federal law.

The new legislation also enables higher educational institutions to cultivate hemp for educational and research purposes with the approval of the state’s department of health.

“While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, the Rhode Island law would clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state,” states the Tenth Amendment Center.

With regard to processing hemp, the department is yet to adopt rules regarding permissible methods of extraction of cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but has already ruled out butane extraction methods.

The full text of the Hemp Growth Act (House Bill 8232 – H8232) can be viewed here.

In related news, earlier this month Gov.  Raimondo signed legislation that adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that may be treated with medical marijuana.

More than 10,000 people in Rhode Island carry medical marijuana cards.