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Johnson Wants Decision From DEA On Hemp

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Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson is asking the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to make a decision on industrial hemp licenses for two North Dakota farmers by April 1. The DEA says it won't be rushed.

"To issue any decision after this year's planting season is to decide against the applicants, since these applications are for the calendar year 2007," Johnson said in a letter this week to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy.

Farmers Dave Monson and Wayne Hauge last month were issued the nation's first licenses to grow industrial hemp, a cousin of marijuana that falls under federal anti-drug rules even though it does not produce a high. The state licenses are worthless without DEA permission.

Johnson hand-delivered federal applications on Feb. 13 from Monson, a state lawmaker who farms near Osnabrock, and Hauge, a farmer from Ray, along with the farmers' nonrefundable $2,293 annual registration fees.

Johnson acknowledged that federal law does not require the DEA to decide on applications within a given time period, but said in his letter that a timely decision is needed to enable Monson and Hauge to prepare for planting.

Hauge said the crop must be in the ground by mid-May, and he needs time to acquire seed and prepare the land.

"If I couldn't obtain seeds by April 1, it's probably pretty much out the window," he said.

DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite said the agency does not keep track of the average amount of time it takes for officials to decide on an application to manufacture a controlled substance.

She said the focus is on adequately analyzing an application, not on processing it in a certain amount of time.

The DEA already has rejected one request from Johnson. He asked late last year that the federal registration requirement for industrial hemp cultivation be waived.

Joseph Rannazzisi, a deputy assistant administrator with the DEA, said last month that federal law does not allow the agency to delegate its ability to regulate hemp to state officials. Although the DEA may waive registration requirements, it has done so only for law enforcement officers and other officials, he said.

Johnson, in his letter to Tandy, asked that the agency reconsider that position.

"If DEA is not prepared to waive the registration requirement, it should carefully consider the registration of applications that have been submitted," he said.

Hemp can be used to make everything from paper to lotion. The North Dakota Agriculture Department approved rules for commercial hemp farming licenses late last year. Patrice Lahlum, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that a third license is likely to be issued this week, and a fourth license within the next couple of weeks. Those farmers also will need DEA permission.

A bill signed by Gov. John Hoeven on Monday also gives the state regulatory authority over hemp processors.

Source: The BismarckTribune.com
Author: BLAKE NICHOLSON, Associated Press Writer
Copyright: 2006 Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises
Website: BismarckTribune.com | Bismarck, North Dakota News
 
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