Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 8:41am

Arizona rural lawmakers are in favor of growing hemp, the fiber used for making rope, soap, clothing and other retail products.

Yuma Senator Lisa Otondo said allowing farmers to grow the crop and have it processed in Arizona could reduce the trade deficit.

Meanwhile, Lake Havasu City’s Senator Sonny Borrelli argued industrial hemp’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are too low to produce a hallucinogenic high and its production is far better on the environment than cotton.

“Industrial hemp uses almost no water whatsoever. It uses nine times less water than cotton,” he said, and added Arizona farmers also see hemp’s’ benefits, “Our cotton growers are looking for something to actually rotate another crop in to actually help replenish the soil.”

But Bob Lynch, an attorney for Arizona Irrigation Districts, is worried lawmakers could pass the bill too soon and overreach their jurisdiction.

“I don’t want to get into the policy issues and whether growing hemp is a good idea,” Lynch said. “My point is we need to tread lightly here. We’re in a new administration. We have a new attorney general.”

Despite that SB 1337 was approved on a 6-1 vote, it still needs to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee because it contains money for the Department of Agriculture to police the industry before it goes to the full Senate.

Nevertheless, the bill passed the Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety 6-1 in favor of growing hemp.

It heads next to the Senate Appropriations Committee where lawmakers will consider adding more money to the Department of Agriculture to help police potential hemp-growing abuse.