Bill Would Allow Hemp Growing for Research in Delaware

6/28/2014 7:00 AM
By Michael Short Delmarva Correspondent

LINCOLN, Del. — Rep. David Wilson, R-Lincoln, has introduced legislation that would allow growing hemp for research in Delaware.

The legislation has been voted out of committee and is awaiting a full vote in the Delaware House of Representatives.

A synopsis of the bill says it “authorizes the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp by the Department of Agriculture and higher education institutions for research purposes in the state of Delaware.”

Delaware’s Department of Agriculture is not opposing the legislation and a large number of co-sponsors have signed on to the legislation. The Industrial Hemp Research Act has a total of 21 sponsors in the Senate and House.

“I think it’s something we need to consider,” Wilson said.

But time is running out for the legislation because Delaware’s Legislature recesses June 30 for the year. At press time, the bill was not scheduled for a House vote and the legislation still has to pass both the full House and Senate before heading to the governor’s office.

If it does not pass before the June 30 deadline, the legislation won’t be considered until the legislature comes back in session in January.

Potential uses include using the seed for oil and using the stalks for poultry litter, but Wilson does not know where any potential research may lead.

“If you don’t research it and find out anything about it, we will never know,” he said.

Hemp is often associated with marijuana and the two plants are members of the same genus. They look alike and are sometimes confused because of the shape of the very distinctive leaves.

But the two plants differ wildly in the amount of the ingredient THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana has 5 to 20 percent THC, while hemp has less than 1 percent THC. That’s according to, the website for Stemergy: Renewable Fibre Technologies, a Canadian company that produces hemp fiber. The company was previously known as Hempline.

The Stemergy website says in part that “the wood-like core hemp fiber can be used for animal bedding, garden mulch, fuel and an assortment of building materials. Hemp also produces an oil seed that contains between 25-35 percent oil by weight.”

Wilson said trying to use hemp as a drug would be “like smoking straw.”

Delaware’s potential hemp research would follow a growing trend across the country as at least nine other states have approved hemp research bills.

Hemp has not been grown in Delaware since World War II when a small amount was cultivated, according to Delaware Department of Agriculture spokesman Dan Shortridge.

At one time, hemp was a common national crop grown principally for fiber and rope, but the American market largely collapsed after World War II. Legislation in 1619 actually required the cultivation of hemp in Jamestown, according to the website,

“By the mid-1600s, hemp had become an important part of the economy in New England and south to Maryland and Virginia,” according to a 2004 article on hemp history on the website, “The Colonies produced cordage, cloth, canvas, sacks and paper from hemp during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. Most of the fiber was then destined for British consumption, although at least some was used for domestic purposes. Ironically, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were penned on hemp paper. Hemp fiber was so important to the young republic that farmers were compelled by patriotic duty to grow it, and were allowed to pay taxes with it. George Washington grew hemp and encouraged all citizens to sow hemp widely. Thomas Jefferson bred improved hemp varieties, and invented a special brake for crushing the plant’s stems during fiber processing.”

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