Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary announced on Thursday that the state will be distributing $392,265 in matched funding to promote the hemp market—including by creating a curriculum to teach high school and college students about the “many uses” of the cannabis plant.
The bulk of the grant funds ($315,765) will support the student initiative, with money being used to create a STEM curriculum “to effectively engage in industrial hemp production, management, and cultivation by promoting and marketing industrial hemp for its many uses such as food, fiber, fuel, industrial, and personal care products.”
The Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Education previously announced in 2020 that K-12 students would be learning about how to make sustainable plastic using hemp.
Florida has similar worked to foster interest in the hemp industry among students, with the state Agriculture Department overseeing an essay contest on innovative uses for the crop for students grades 5-11 last year.
Under the new Pennsylvania grants, another $56,000 is being awarded to the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Council to fund a campaign “to promote the benefits of hemp and create new markets for hemp-based products.”
“The council is building a dynamic collaboration among farmers and other businesses, investors, government agencies, and communities to bring hemp back to Pennsylvania’s farms,” it says.
Finally, the U.S. Ecological Advanced Research & Conservation Hub Hemp Certificate Program for Disadvantaged Communities (USEARCH) will receive $20,500 to develop “an educational program for disadvantaged communities including youth, veterans, and women to enable them to get involved in the hemp industry.”
The agriculture department announced late last year that it was soliciting proposals for up to $200,000 in matched funding for marketing projects to promote the state’s hemp market.
“Pennsylvania has been making history, building a new hemp industry from roots up,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a press release. “These grants feed the growth of an industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is once again growing opportunities for new businesses, farm income, jobs, and climate-smart, environmentally sound products.”
Meanwhile, a bipartisan pair of Pennsylvania senators announced last month that they will soon file a bill to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania House lawmakers also filed separate bills this session to legalize marijuana sales through state-run stores and to provide permits for farmers and small agriculture businesses to cultivate cannabis once adult-use sales are allowed.
Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) supports enacting cannabis reform and proposed to legalize and tax adult-use marijuana as part of his 2023-2024 budget request in March.
The prospects of enacting legalization increased in the Keystone State after Democrats took control of the House following last year’s election. Republicans have maintained control of the Senate, however, but there are certain GOP members like Laughlin and Mike Regan (R) who’ve backed reform. (Full Story)