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Hemp Bill Passes Public Safety Committee


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Elaine Berke, co-owner of Eco Goods in Santa Cruz, would like to see hemp grown legally in California some day.

The fact is, hemp products have been popular for a while, but unfortunately it has an unfair stigma attached to it.

People often confuse it with marijuana, even though it's nothing of the sort, she said.

"But mostly it's our government that's confused. There's no question that being able to grow it would be wonderful for our economy," said Berke, who's been selling hemp clothes for more than a decade on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. "There are so many products that can be made out of industrial hemp: clothes, paper, body care, even car parts. Our forefathers used to think it was patriotic to grow it. Hopefully, we can return to those days"

That's where AB 684 comes in.

Introduced in late February, the bill, which has passed the state Assembly's Committee on Public Safety, seeks to legalize hemp so California growers can compete.

The idea is that growers in the state could try to make the same sort of profits that Canadian and Chinese growers are raking in as the No. 1 and No. 2 suppliers of the U.S. market.

Even the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau supports the legislation, saying industrial hemp, if nothing else, could serve as an alternative crop during the slow season.

But there are two things standing in the way of the legalization: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the federal government, which still makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana. Schwarzenegger shot down a similar version of legislation that made it to his desk last year in October, saying he didn't think that state law should supersede federal law.

While the governor wrote at the time that said he supports the development of new crops in the state, he added: "Unfortunately, I am very concerned that this bill would give legitimate growers a false sense of security and a belief that production of 'industrial hemp' is somehow a legal activity under federal law"

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who introduced AB 1147 last year and is the co-author of this year's bill, is holding out hope that Schwarzenegger will sign the bill because it is a nonelection year.

Patrick Googin, counsel for Hemp Industries Association and a board member for Vote Hemp, is also optimistic.

"The U.S. is the only country in the First World that can't grow industrialized hemp," said Googin, a San Francisco resident. "Canada has been growing it and selling it for 10 years, and they're sending it here. We're the market"

But so far the governor nor the California Farm Bureau and Federation haven't taken positions on the bill, according to their offices.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)[/FONT]
Author: Tom Ragan
Contact: tragan@santacruzsentinel.com
Copyright: 2007 [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Santa Cruz Sentinel[/FONT]
Website: Santa Cruz Sentinel - Online Edition
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