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Come On Idaho!

Akornpatch

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Lawmaker hopes third time's the charm for hemp
By ALICIA P.Q. WITTMEYER
Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho - State Rep. Tom Trail is stoked about industrial hemp. But
other lawmakers keep killing his buzz about turning the plant - a cousin of
marijuana - into an agricultural commodity.

Trail, a Republican from Moscow, is preparing to ask state lawmakers - for
the third time in eight years - to support a resolution that would ask the
U.S. Congress to legalize hemp as a farm crop. His proposal was killed in
committee in 2000, and died on the House floor in 2003.

But the moderate conservative has high hopes: This year, his proposal comes
on the heels of newly issued rules in North Dakota that regulate hemp
farming in that state.

North Dakota's no hippie state, Trail said, and in fact, the first person to
apply for a hemp farming license under those rules was none other than North
Dakota's assistant House majority leader.

Trail believes that could give his proposal the momentum it needs to pass.

North Dakota's regulations require hemp farmers to be fingerprinted and to
register the locations of their hemp fields. If those are effective, Trail
said, he plans to introduce a bill to legalize hemp farming in Idaho.

North Dakota is one of seven U.S. states that have authorized industrial
hemp farming. The others are Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana and
West Virginia, according to Vote Hemp, an industrial hemp advocacy
organization based in Bedford, Massachusetts.

"I'm a bit more optimistic," Trail said. "About two weeks ago I wasn't going
to do anything, until this news came out."

Some of the proposal's past opponents aren't so reassured.

Hemp is a member of the Cannabis family - the same genus that contains its
more potent cousin, marijuana, but without marijuana's intoxicating
properties. The sturdy, fibrous plant is used to make products ranging from
paper and rope to lotions and carpet backing.

But Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said the two plants are difficult to tell
apart, and legalizing hemp farming would make it easier to sneak marijuana
farms past law enforcement, Lake said.

"It is presently illegal to grow in the United States and obviously I won't
be supporting it," Lake said. "I think this is just a roundabout way to
legalize the growing of marijuana."

But Trail said Idaho farmers could make millions off the hardy plant, which
is grown legally in Canada and Europe. And anyone hoping for a legal high
will be disappointed, he said: "To get a kick out of smoking industrial
hemp, it would take a cigar the size of a telephone pole."
 
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