The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, AB 684, was approved in the State Assembly yesterday on a 41–29 vote. Nearly identical legislation, AB 1147, was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger last year, evidently in order to appease law enforcement concerns that hemp would be used as a screen for marijuana. That legislation was approved in the Assembly by a slightly wider margin, 44–29. In his veto statement last year, Gov. Schwarzenegger said, "I am very concerned that this bill would give legitimate growers a false sense of security and a belief that production of 'industrial hemp' is somehow a legal activity under federal law."
In fact, production of industrial hemp is "somehow" a legal activity under federal law, albeit one subject to a DEA permit, as Gov. Schwarzenegger went on to say in his veto message: "Any person in the United States that wishes to grow cannabis plants for any purpose, including industrial purposes, must first obtain permission and register with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)." The Governor's conclusion: "As a result, it would be improper to approve a measure that directly conflicts with current federal statutes and court decisions. This only serves to cause confusion and reduce public confidence in our government system."
Is Gov. Schwarzenegger's fear for the peace of mind of California farmers and businesses warranted? The Assembly analysis reports that California businesses already import tens of thousands of acres' worth of hemp fiber, seed and oil every year. Presumably, these folks are not confused about the law–it is evident every time they calculate their bottom line. A Zogby poll commissioned this February by hemp industry group Vote Hemp, found that 71 percent (+/- 3.5 percent) of Californians support changing the state laws to allow farmers to grow hemp. And as far as public confidence and our sense of security with respect to Cannabis sativa goes, 74 percent (+/- 4.5) of registered voters in California support the state's medical marijuana laws, which run contrary to the same federal drug statutes as hemp, according to a 2004 Field Poll.