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FORT EDWARD -- Washington County officials are planning to explore the effect industrial hemp could have on the local economy if growing the crop were legalized in the state.

The Washington County Board of Supervisors Agriculture, Planning and Tourism Committee on Monday considered a proposal from Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff to start a push for state legalization of the growing of industrial hemp.

“I’m not in favor of passing a resolution today,” said Greenwich Supervisor Sara Idleman, chairwoman of the Agriculture, Planning and Tourism Committee. “I’d like to hear from the paper mills, from the farmers.”

County officials decided against moving forward with Haff’s proposed legislation on Monday, instead opting to search for more information about how the ability to grow industrial hemp in the agricultural county could affect the local economy.

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both in the cannabis family, with marijuana coming from the flowers and leaves of cannabis indica and industrial hemp utilizing the stalks and seeds of the cannabis sativa strain. Industrial hemp has lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the chemical that creates psychoactive effects.

Despite that difference, all cannabis is lumped under the marijuana category under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and cannot be grown here. Finished hemp is legal in the United States however and is imported and used in the manufacture of various goods, including rope and paper products. Hemp oil can be used in everything from cosmetics to food.

Bills have been introduced this year in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.

The Department of Justice has said it would generally defer to states when it comes to marijuana laws, and a growing number of states are adopting laws that reclassify industrial hemp and allow for its growth and processing.

Haff’s proposed resolution requests the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to identify industrial hemp as a non-controlled agricultural crop and allow for it to be cultivated, harvested and processed in New York.

“I think it’s silly that it’s illegal to grow industrial hemp in New York state,” Haff said.

Haff didn’t encounter much opposition from his peers on Monday, but more than one supervisor expressed concern about the effectiveness of passing resolutions at the county that are put on paper and just sent along to the next level of government.

Washington County Administrator Kevin Hayes suggested consulting with the local paper mills to see if there is a local market for industrial hemp.

“If they’re interested in doing it, that’s a market,” Hayes said.

Kingsbury Supervisor Jim Lindsay expressed concern that industrial hemp could compete with corn for the best farm land in the county.

Officials were going to look deeper into how the crop might affect the local economy.

“I think it’s worth investigating,” Idleman said.

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