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Hemp, Hemp, Hooray? No Way, Says Dea



DURHAM -- Durham's Gale Glenn could rightly be called the hemp lady.

No, not that kind of hemp, she says; it's the kind that can be harvested to
make clothes, paper and other textile products, the kind that produces the
longest and strongest natural fibers in the world. But because it's in the
cannabis family, along with marijuana, it's illegal.

As a former Kentucky tobacco farmer, Glenn sees industrial hemp as the
perfect money-making alternative crop. From her Durham home, she has been
lobbying Congress, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the White
House for years.

"It's an illegal crop, even though it's grown in 35 Western countries ..
because the DEA is convinced it is a stalking horse for illegal marijuana.
We've been working in a concerted effort for about eight years to legalize
it as an alternative crop," said Glenn, who is vice chairwoman of the North
American Industrial Hemp Council.

"I feel like I'm watching a goose dancing around on hot coals looking for a
place to lay the golden egg," she said. "I really think there's going to be
some hemp millionaires in the future."

The issue has acquired renewed vigor because several state legislatures
have passed resolutions to push for the crop's legalization. Recently, a
bipartisan group of state lawmakers from Hawaii sent President George W.
Bush a letter urging that a legal distinction be made between a crop grown
as an illegal drug and an industrial crop grown for textile manufacturing.

'A kind crop for farmers'

With the decline in tobacco production, empty warehouses and the continuous
search for alternative crops, hemp makes sense, Glenn and others say.

She points out that the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and
Science at N.C. State University sponsored the International Hemp Forum in
November 2001, and several NCSU professors recently sent a grant proposal
to the Golden LEAF Foundation, which spends tobacco settlement economic
development money.

The proposal was rejected.

Hemp is "biodegradable; it's a very kind crop for farmers. As a matter of
fact, it's a farmer's dream crop -- you just drill in the seed and some
fertilizer. It can grow any place you can grow corn, so it's a universal
type of crop," she said. "It's an ideal rotation crop. You just need a
little bit of fertilizer, no chemicals, and very low labor. Four months
later, you can go back into the field and cut it and bale it. It's very
useful for manufacturing.

"It seems to me that because it's so useful in so many industries to make
so many products ... it'd be ideal for North Carolina, because we have all
of these empty warehouses," she said.

Hemp as an industrial product has its high-profile supporters, including
longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader,
who said the crop had seen a resurgence around the world.

"In recent years, industrial hemp has experienced a renaissance. Farmers
throughout the world are growing hemp in countries, such as France, that
have never banned its cultivation, and in countries, such as Canada, that
strictly regulate hemp production to guard against even the most remote
possibility of illicit marijuana production," Nader wrote. "The United
States, on the other hand, lags far behind. Due to bureaucratic red tape
and overzealousness on the part of the Drug Enforcement Agency, industrial
hemp cannot be commercially grown in the United States."

The DEA also is waging a battle against any form of imported hemp in the
marketplace, including seeds, oil and other food products.

In 2001, the agency ordered a ban on hemp-derived foods, saying they ran
afoul of the federal Controlled Substances Act. A lower-level federal court
stayed the directive, and the battle continues in higher-level courts.
Supporters, such as Glenn, say food products and other uses should be
exempt from federal substance control laws, just as poppy seeds found on
bagels are exempt.

Poppy plants are the basis for heroin production.

DEA spokesman Ed Childress said that because the fight over hemp's food
uses is still in the courts, he could not comment. But he said the DEA's
position is that because hemp is illegal, it cannot be grown in the United

"There's really no differentiation between hemp and marijuana. It is a
controlled substance at this time, and until such time as the law changes,
it will be enforced," he said. "The FDA, Health and Human Services and the
DEA do studies and they get back together and they decide on a policy. It's
all based on science. It's not based on opinions or politics, unless you're
talking about the other side.

"The DEA is so demonized, and all we're doing is enforcing the law," he said.

Pubdate: Sat, 29 Nov 2003
Source: Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC)
Copyright: 2003 The Herald-Sun
Contact: letters@herald-sun.com
Website: Durham, NC Breaking News, Sports, Weather & More | heraldsun.com & Herald Sun
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