Industrial Hemp Legislation Passes U.S. House of Representatives
A new bi-partisan amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today in support of industrial hemp by a vote of 225 to 200. Introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), it allows colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp in states where it is already legal, without fear of federal interference.
According to a statement from the office of Rep. Polis, 19 states have passed pro-industrial hemp legislation. The following nine states have removed barriers to its production: Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
Rep. Polis said in a statement:
Industrial hemp is an important agricultural commodity, not a drug. My bipartisan, common-sense amendment, which I've introduced with Representatives Thomas Massie and Earl Blumenauer, would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal. Many states, including Colorado, have demonstrated that they are fully capable of regulating industrial hemp.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp—but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can't grow it here," explained Rep. Polis. "The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities—the greatest in the world—to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.
Rep. Massie said in a statement:
Industrial hemp is used for hundreds of products including paper, clothing, rope and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels more efficiently than corn or switch grass. It's our goal that the research this amendment enables would further broadcast the economic benefits of the sustainable and job-creating crop. I look forward to working with Rep. Polis and Rep. Blumenauer on this issue.
Rep. Blumenauer said in a statement:
Because of outdated federal drug laws, our farmers can't grow industrial hemp and take advantage of a more than $300 million dollar market. We rely solely on imports to sustain consumer demand. It makes no sense. Our fear of industrial hemp is misplaced—it is not a drug. By allowing colleges and universities to cultivate hemp for research, Congress sends a signal that we are ready to examine hemp in a different and more appropriate context.
Hemp is listed as a Schedule 1 Narcotic because it is classified as Cannabis sativa, which is the same species as marijuana used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Hemp has been used all over the world throughout history, not only for industrial purposes and personal care products, but also as a source of highly nutritious food.
Currently, hemp cannot be grown by farmers in the U.S. "Federal law has denied American farmers the opportunity to cultivate industrial hemp and reap the economic rewards from this versatile crop for far too long," commented Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. "Congress should lift the prohibition on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp as soon as possible. Allowing academic research is an important first step towards returning industrial hemp cultivation to American farms."
"Vote Hemp applauds the passing of this bi-partisan amendment. This brilliant initiative allows colleges and universities the opportunity to grow and cultivate hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. "It only applies to states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal in order for those states to showcase just how much industrial hemp can benefit the environment and economy in those regions."
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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