Wisconsin Legalizes Industrial Hemp After 75-Year Ban
We have a positive update about industrial hemp and hemp oil legislation in Wisconsin. After a rollercoaster few months, that’s included the passing of an industrial hemp law in late 2017, followed by an interjection and objection from the Wisconsin Department of Justice about the legalities of that law, all Wisconsin government branches are now in unanimous agreement that the production, distribution, sale, and possession of hemp extract, cannabidiols, and active diols is legal.
This news comes after the Wisconsin Department of Justice sent a memo to newly licensed hemp farmers participating in Wisconsin’s industrial hemp pilot program stating the possession and distribution of hemp extract and CBD remains illegal. Since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed Wisconsin Act 100 (also known as Senate Bill 119) in November 2017, lifting a ban on the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp and hemp extract, the DOJ memo and interpretation of the new law came as a shock to legislators, farmers, retailers, and residents.
Clarification and rectification was demanded. After an ad hoc meeting on May 9 between state Attorney General Brad Schimel, state lawmakers, legislative attorney council, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF), and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the DOJ reversed course on their stance.
In a press release following the May 9 meeting, Attorney General Brad Schimel stated,
“I very much appreciate WFBF raising concerns to me about Wisconsin’s current laws related to hemp. DOJ remains committed to ensuring that CBD oil for sale at retail outlets is safe for consumers. Senator Testin has been a leader on this issue, and I know he is committed to overcome any challenges that may arise legislatively. With the 2018 Farm Bill now working its way through Congress, it is likely that our current laws will be changed even further to make industrial hemp’s legality clear. Therefore, I am advising law enforcement not to take enforcement action against products made from industrial hemp that is grown under a lawful hemp research pilot program, including CBD, until Congress considers changes to the law, enabling the Wisconsin State Legislature to further clarify the status of these products.”
No one was more thrilled about the passing of Wisconsin Act 100 than Sen. Kathleen Vinehout who has been working to get an industrial hemp bill passed since 2009.
“I was the chair of the Agriculture Committee back in 2009 and I tried to get the bill passed. I was actually working with the Republican sponsor at the time and he retired and then I picked up his bill and introduced it in 2013 and 2015. In 2017 the Republicans took my idea, they took my bill… and made it better and got it passed. So I ended up being third author on the bill that got passed. I was so happy that finally this issue got some traction. I have to thank the Farm Bureau. They are kind of Republican leaning group. I am a farmer and a member of the Farm Bureau, but I didn’t see the excitement when I was trying to get this passed eight years ago. I didn’t see the excitement that we saw this past year and that made a huge difference especially with my Republican colleagues.”
When asked about the DOJ’s memo and initial interpretation of the industrial hemp law, Senate Bill 119 co-sponsor Sen. Vinehout said, “The law clearly, clearly says processing over and over again in legal language. I am grateful they (DOJ) read the law a second time and saw what the legislators intended. I don’t understand why the Attorney General is so confused about hemp and why he thinks he has to waffle on something legislature has already decided unanimously.”
Sen. Vinehout sees no reason why the possession or sale of hemp oil or CBD products would be viewed as illegal going forward and doesn’t see any threat of prosecution for processing, distribution, sale, or possession.
Describing why the passing of the Wisconsin Act 100 will be beneficial to the entire state of Wisconsin, Sen. Vinehout said emphatically, “This is everything about putting more money into farmer’s pockets and a well-loved, well-needed, high value product in consumer’s hands.”
On Wisconsin! After a 75-year ban, hemp is back and is in good standing for all to process, sell, possess, and enjoy.