The Fairbanks City Council passed a resolution Monday night encouraging the legalization of industrial hemp production. Growing hemp is illegal under federal law because the plant is a relative of marijuana. City Council member Lloyd Hilling sponsored the resolution to support hemp as a viable agricultural crop for Alaska. Hilling told the council hemp has lot of valuable uses.
“It’s fibers for a myriad of cloth-type products and rope and canvas, and of course the seeds for oils that are used in a bunch of different food and even potentially for fuel. And then the hurds, the center of the stalk which is an extraordinarily good fuel. It competes with wood,” Hilling said.
Hilling says hemp is grown at similar latitudes in Canada, and the United States is the world’s largest hemp importer. During public testimony, Lance Roberts questioned the council’s consideration of the hemp cultivation resolution, considering no farming is likely to happen in the city.
“I don’t really think this is city business, I don’t think this is anything that the city should be involved in. This has nothing to do with the city,” Roberts said.
Roberts said legalization of hemp growing is an attempt to get a foot in the door by people who really want to grow marijuana. Hilling countered that the crops are very different, and said that development of hemp agriculture in the broader region would lead to jobs and wealth that would benefit the city of Fairbanks. Hilling’s resolution urging the state to petition the federal government to legalize industrial hemp production passed the council on a 4 to 1 vote. Council member Bernard Gatewood, who directs Fairbanks Youth Detention Facility, was the only no vote, saying he couldn’t take the political risk because hemp is associated with marijuana.