Walker signs bill legalizing hemp farming in Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Farmer
Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill on Thursday that allows Wisconsin farmers to grow industrial hemp.

MADISON - Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill on Nov. 30 that allows Wisconsin farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Senate Bill 119, authored by Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) and Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), creates a hemp pilot program that will permit farmers to grow industrial hemp through a licensing system from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The bill garnered bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature and was passed unanimously in each.

The bill passed the Legislature unanimously.

Kremer, tweeted Thursday that the bill will make Wisconsin a leader in hemp production. His tweet included the hashtag "AmericasHempland."

Wisconsin has joined 33 other states in passing some form of legislation legalizing industrial hemp production and research. Additionally, more than thirty industrialized countries allow their farmers to grow hemp as a crop. Industrial hemp has not been legally grown in Wisconsin since 1957.

Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill allow states to set up pilot programs to permit the growing, cultivating and marketing of industrial hemp.

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Under the new law, hemp plants couldn't contain more than 0.3 percent THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp farmers with drug convictions would not be eligible for state-issued licenses to grow the crop.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte thanked Walker for supporting the bill. 

 “The establishment of an industrial hemp pilot program will open new market opportunities for our state’s farmers and create jobs in processing and marketing,” said Holte. “From the 1930s to 1957, Wisconsin dominated hemp production. As a farmer myself, I am excited about the opportunities this creates to capitalize on existing markets, capture emerging markets and once again establish our position as an industry leader.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.