Pro-hemp, pro-jobs legislation building statewide momentum
by State Rep. Eric Watson
Feb 24, 2014 | 498 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Legislation filed earlier this year to legalize the growth of industrial hemp in Tennessee easily passed the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee last week as the bill continues to gain statewide support from pro-job groups across the state.

Though there are some common misconceptions about the hemp plant, studies continue to show legalizing the growth of hemp in the state would result in a multi-million dollar per year industry and would create thousands of jobs across Tennessee.

Over the years, many people have mistakenly associated hemp with marijuana; however, they are actually two very different species. Not only do they look drastically different, but they are also cultivated in very dissimilar ways. Hemp is a fiber that is made from the stalk of the cannabis plant and is longer with not as many leaves. In addition, an individual cannot get high from hemp as it contains less than .3 percent THC, the ingredient which creates the “high” from marijuana.

As advocates further note, the hemp plant played an integral role in the early development of our country with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson growing large quantities of hemp and encouraging fellow Americans to do the same. At one time in Tennessee, hemp was traditionally a large cash crop. Today, hemp remains a very common material with numerous commercial uses such as clothing, insulation, carpeting and paneling. There are approximately 75 manufacturers using hemp in America today, most prevalently with plastics, which can be reinforced with hemp. Because of its strength, hemp is also used in the car panels of Mercedes Benz as well as Volkswagen, whose main manufacturing facility happens to be located in Chattanooga.

The hemp legislation is scheduled to be heard in the full House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee later this week where it is expected to continue moving forward.

Wine in grocery

stores legislation

passes House

Legislation to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine across the state passed the full House of Representatives last week with an overwhelming 71-15 vote.

The bill has multiple provisions, the most prominent of which gives local communities the final say in whether area grocery stores can sell wine by holding a referendum vote. Referendum votes can currently be called to allow liquor by the drink, package stores and similar measures.

Other details of the legislation include mandating a 20 percent markup over wholesale prices on wine being sold as well as matching current requirements prohibiting alcohol sales from taking place on Sundays. Liquor stores, meanwhile, would be allowed to sell other items for the first time, including cigarettes, newspapers and magazines, corkscrews, glassware, T-shirts, alcohol mixers and snacks.

The bill also sets July 1, 2016, as the implementation date of allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores assuming the local referendum passes, allowing liquor store owners time to update their business models if needed.

Thirty-six states, including six of Tennessee’s eight border states, currently allow the sale of wine in retail stores.

Veteran academic

support bill moves

forward in House

A bill that allows veterans to receive in-state tuition rates at Tennessee higher education institutions has garnered support from House lawmakers as the bill continues to move through the legislative committee process.

The Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act encourages enrollment of veterans at Tennessee public colleges and removes many of the burdensome hurdles associated with veterans reentering the academic world after serving in our nation’s military.

Currently, discharged veterans who choose to relocate back to Tennessee after service must pay out-of-state tuition rates until residency is formally established. Under the VETS legislation, veterans enrolling within 24 months of discharge immediately receive Tennessee’s in-state college tuition rate.

The Act also creates a “VETS Campus” designation to recognize and promote schools that make veteran enrollment a priority. Higher education institutions that satisfy veteran-friendly criteria, such as specialized orientation and the availability of mentoring programs, can receive the designation.

The bill is set to next be heard in the House Education Committee. Once approved there, the bill will quickly move to the floor where it will be considered by the full House of Representatives.