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First Industrial Hemp Licenses Issued In North Dakota


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It's official. The North Dakota Department of Agriculture issued the first two licenses to grow industrial hemp in North Dakota on Tuesday, Feb. 6. However, federal approval is still required before the farmers can even plant the the first seeds.

State Rep. David Monson of Osnabrock, N.D., was issued the first license by the state to grow industrial hemp, followed closely by Wayne Hauge, a farmer from Ray, N.D.

"Rep. Monson has been the leader in developing the necessary legislation for North Dakota to legalize production of industrial hemp," Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said during the official signing. "It is fitting that he has the first license."

Johnson said both men have have invested a great deal of time, money and effort in order to meet the letter and spirit of the law, as well as the requirements of the federal government which includes an FBI background check and fingerprints.

Though they have paid the mandatory fees, including a non-refundable $2,293 annual registration fee required by DEA, the two farmers still have some hoops to jump through before they can actually grow industrial hemp, which can be used to make everything from paper to lotion.

"The rules require that a state license is not effective until the licensee receives a registration from DEA to import, produce or process industrial hemp," Johnson said.

Because DEA considers hemp a non-hallucinogenic cousin of the illegal drug marijuana, the North Dakotans must still get permission from DEA.

After North Dakota approved rules for growing hemp late last year, Johnson had asked DEA to waive the fee, but federal officials rejected that request.

Joseph Rannazzisi, a deputy assistant administrator with the DEA, said federal law doesn't allow the agency to delegate its ability to regulate hemp to state officials. Although the Controlled Substances Act allows DEA to waive registration requirements, it has done so only for law enforcement officers and other officials, he added.

Johnson planned to meet with DEA officials in person this week to forward the two licenses and to again ask DEA to waive the fee and lessen the restrictions.

"There's something rather ludicrous to have to register as someone who wants to grow marijuana," he said.

Monson said he was pleased to receive the first license and said it was a long-time coming.

"We've been at this for about 10 years," he said. "We thought that it would happen in 2000, but it took a little longer (than expected) and I think we still have a ways to go. But this is the first major step, and I'm excited about going forward."

Hauge, too, said he was looking forward to the process.

"I want to thank the Canadians for all the research they've done (on hemp production). It's a viable product and I think it will work good in crop rotations in both eastern and western North Dakota."

Monson wants to sell both hemp seed and fiber.

"I want to capitalize on every part (of the plant)," he said. "There will be no problem finding a market."

He said he has been contacted from potential buyers as far away as Taiwan. Hemp can be used to make a number of products including clothing, food, lotions and much more.

At the present time hemp seed would have to be purchased from Canada where hemp production is legal. It is possible that one entity in the state could buy Canadian seed and then offer it to other producers who meet all the state and federal requirements.

Monson, who is the state House's assistant Republican majority leader, said the House is considering a resolution that urges Congress to direct the DEA to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana. Another resolution urges Congress to facilitate the legal growing of hemp.

Johnson said he will ask for DEA's cooperation with the state's program when he meets with them this week, and also reiterate his request to waive the fees and allow the state to regulate the production.

"I will ask DEA to implement a reasonable process to allow North Dakota producers to grow industrial hemp," he said.

Johnson said he wants to have a decision from DEA on whether the agency will register farmers to grow industrial hemp, and if registration is forthcoming, what additional restrictions will be placed on growers.

"The controls placed on licensed industrial hemp farmers by North Dakota's laws and regulations include criminal background checks, identification of fields by satellite tracking, minimum acreage requirements, seed certification and mandatory laboratory tests," Johnson said. "The chain of custody for viable hemp seed must be fully documented."

The regulations apply to owners, operators and employees of a hemp farm or anyone to grows, handles or processes viable hemp seed.

Johnson said the production of industrial hemp presents little potential for diversion of controlled substances to illegitimate purposes.

Source: The Farm & Ranch Guide
Author: Mark Conlon
Copyright: 2007 Farm & Ranch Guide
Website: Farm and Ranch Guide | From Lee Agrimedia
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