ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making a late-session push to boost the state's budding hemp industry, introducing a bill late Saturday that would treat the plant more like other agricultural crops in New York.
Cuomo's bill would change the state's agriculture law to include industrial hemp as an acceptable crop seed, requiring the state to come up with quality benchmarks that make sure the seed is adapted to the state's climate and has low levels of THC.
The legislation would also require the state's economic-development branch to consider industrial hemp for research and business funding.
The bill is being sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, and Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, who have pushed hemp as a potential cash crop for Southern Tier.
"Industrial hemp has proven its potential, especially in the Southern Tier, and this legislation removes artificial barriers for growth," Cuomo said in a statement Sunday.
Hemp is a form of the cannabis plant that has low levels of THC and is used to make a variety of products, including fabrics, paper, food, oils and insulation.
The state Legislature voted in 2016 to allow 10 licenses to grow and research hemp in partnership with colleges and universities. Earlier this year, the state lifted the cap and allowed private organizations to research the product on their own.
Among those who have received licenses are Cornell University and Binghamton University, which partnered with Nanticoke Gardens to study hemp's health effects.
Lawmakers could vote on the latest bill this week.
The Legislature has three working days left in its 2017 legislative session, which is scheduled to end Wednesday.
"It brings the state's economic development and agricultural resources together to ensure the highest quality seeds are planted, the best practices are followed, and the financial supports are in place for New York to lead the way," said Lupardo, who also sponsored the previous hemp bills.
The latest bill would also create a working group of hemp researchers, producers and manufacturers to provide advice to the state.
The Department of Agriculture & Markets, meanwhile, would be required to launch a hotline to answer questions from hemp growers or license seekers who have questions about state or federal law.
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