Wyden's amendment would remove a federal regulation banning farmers from growing hemp and replace it with a state-administered permit system. Wyden's amendment (#2220) is co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
"This is, in my view, a textbook example of a regulation that flunks the commonsense test. There is government regulation on the books today that prevents America's farmers from growing industrial hemp and what's worse is this regulation is hurting job creation in rural American and increasing our trade deficit," Wyden said.
The amendment would likely win more support from other members of the Senate once they learned that it really wasn't an attempt to legalize marijuana, Wyden continued.
"When my colleagues get, I think, more information on this outrageous, outlandish regulation, I think most of my colleagues are going to say that the restriction on industrial hemp is really a poster child for dumb regulation," Wyden continued. "The only thing standing in the way of taking advantage of this very profitable crop is a lingering misunderstanding about its use, and the amendment that I have filed on this issue will end a ridiculous regulation once and for all."
Wyden added that there were major differences between industrial grown hemp and marijuana.
"Now I know that there are going to be members of Congress and others who are going to be listening and say 'all this talk about hemp is basically talk about marijuana.' The fact of the matter is while they come from the same species of plant, there are major differences between them.
"Under this amendment the production of hemp would still be regulated but it would be done through permitting programs, not the federal government," he said.
Wyden said nine states had already introduced permitting programs that banned the growth of marijuana and that industrial hemp had a very low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level — much lower than marijuana.
"Under 0.3 percent. The lowest-grade marijuana typically has 5 percent THC content," Wyden said.
"The bottom line," Wyden added, "is no one is going to get high on industrial hemp."
Wyden introduced his amendment on Thursday. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) put forward similar legislation, H.R. 1831, in the House.
—This story was updated at 5:46 p.m.