(NPN) -- North Dakota is in a position to take advantage of a little discussed amendment in the new Farm Bill—industrial hemp.

The amendment allows state agriculture departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully worked to retain and strengthen the hemp research amendment in the Farm Bill conference committee.

The hemp farming advocacy group VoteHemp.com says the U.S. hemp industry is estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales and growing. The group also says the measure is the first time in American history that industrial hemp has been legally defined by the federal government as distinct from drug varieties of Cannabis.

North Dakota is one of only 10 states that have passed industrial hemp farming laws, according to VoteHemp. The group says North Dakota and the nine other states will be able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision.