INDUSTRIAL HEMP GETS BACKING
S.D. Farmers Union Offers Endorsement
A petition drive to legalize industrial hemp production has won the support
of the South Dakota Farmers Union.
The farm group voted unanimously to support the petition during its annual
convention last weekend in Sioux Falls. Backers need 13,010 valid
signatures by May 2002 to get the initiated measure on the November general
"I'm walking on air. I couldn't be happier," said Bob Newland, president of
SoDak-NORML, an affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws. "I'm pleased not so much that they just endorsed our
efforts, I knew they were generally in favor of it, but the wonderful thing
about it is, there was not a single voice of dissent."
By supporting the petition, the Farmer's Union is encouraging its members
to sign the document, according to Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland.
"We're not forcing them to do anything," he said.
Kloucek said he also was surprised by the unanimous vote, from the more
than 70 delegates.
"I don't see any problem with industrial hemp," he said. "We're already
importing it from all over the world. The twine we buy comes from Brazil."
Newland said hemp is brought to the United States from more than 30 nations.
"We truck Canadian hemp right past barely surviving South Dakota farms," he
said. "The absurdity of the situation is glaringly obvious. Everyone knows
hemp would be a great crop - especially in eastern South Dakota. The
delegates saw this."
Newland began circulating petitions in May.
The ballot measure would allow the planting, harvesting, possession and
sale of industrial hemp in South Dakota if it contained no more than 1
percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance in marijuana that gets
More than 20 other states are pushing similar measures. State and federal
agriculture and law enforcement officials oppose legalization.
Some local lawmakers also say they oppose the legalization of industrial hemp.
"It's still illegal, under federal law," said Matt McCaulley, R-Sioux
Falls. "And the reports that I've heard are it's questionable as to whether
there's even a real market for it."
McCaulley said the hemp issue hasn't been pushed by the agriculture
industry, but by celebrities interested in marijuana legalization.
Majority Leader Bill Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, said he knew there were
efforts being taken to bring the industrial hemp issue to a public vote.
"I support putting it on the ballot, if there's enough public interest. But
I don't intend to vote for it, unless I see more compelling evidence,"
Peterson said. "I'm open to changing my mind on it, but they are going to
have to make a better case. They're pushing it as a panacea to solve all
the ag problems, and I don't see that."
Senate Majority Leader Barbara Everist, R-Sioux Falls, supports the concept
of growing a valuable crop, but she too has legal concerns.
"It's illegal under federal law, that's the main one, and federal law
preempts state law," Everist said. "In past legislative sessions, we
haven't been convinced that the crop can be readily distinguished from
marijuana per se, or that it would even be valuable."
In the past legislative session, state lawmakers killed two bills that
would have allowed medicinal use of marijuana and another that would have
allowed hemp production.
Newshawk: Bob Newland (http://www.sodaknorml.org/)
Pubdate: Wed, 05 Dec 2001
Source: Argus Leader (SD)
Copyright: 2001 Argus Leader
Author: Bob Newland