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At one time, three Wisconsin counties accounted for 70 percent of the nation's hemp, which is used to make rope, among other things.

STATE JOURNAL ARCHIVES

JANESVILLE — An advocacy group and two state lawmakers are trying to legalize hemp production in Wisconsin, decades after it was outlawed.

Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, and Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, are circulating bills that would regulate industrial hemp in the state.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism is scheduled to vote on one of the measures Wednesday morning.

That bill calls for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to issue licenses to farmers looking to grow industrial hemp. People with drug convictions wouldn’t be eligible for licenses.

Hemp has plastic and fiber components that can be used to make furniture, canvas, fabric and other paper products.

Hempcrete — a form of concrete using hemp — could be used for insulation and add a new market for area farmers, said Marc Grignon, campaign manager for Hempstead Project Heart, which seeks to build awareness of the benefits of industrial hemp.

Grignon said hemp isn’t used as a drug since it contains less than 1 percent of THC, the main psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. Marijuana can have more than 10 percent of THC, he said.

“That’s why there’s so much controversy around it. The leaves look like marijuana,” Grignon said. “But the difference between marijuana and hemp is you’re growing hemp for seeds and fiber, and marijuana you’re growing for buds.”

Grignon said he works to disassociate hemp from marijuana by showing skeptics the different products that can be made from hemp, including briefcases, pens and bricks.

“When it comes to demystifying hemp, it comes down to a show-me approach. It’s not a tell-me approach,” he said. “What can you show me to say hemp is not a drug and we can use it for industry?”

More than 30 states in the U.S. have legalized hemp for industrial, commercial or research purposes.

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