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N.D. Delegation Won't Take Up Hemp Issue

Herb Fellow

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WASHINGTON - The three members of North Dakota's congressional delegation see little hope in Congress for state farmers who want to grow industrial hemp. Members of the state's all-Democratic delegation – Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy – say they have no plans to introduce or push legislation that would make it easier for farmers around the country to grow the crop.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland last month dismissed a lawsuit filed against the U.S government by two North Dakota farmers, saying federal law considers industrial hemp to be the same as marijuana, which is an illegal drug. In his ruling, Hovland suggested asking Congress to change the definition of industrial hemp to explicitly distinguish it from marijuana.

That idea has no traction in Congress, the state's delegation says. ''When the (federal) drug enforcement agency takes this hard line position, there is not the political will in Congress to challenge them,'' Pomeroy said. ''No one wants to be involved in something that some might perceive as loosening our drug laws.''

Hemp can be used for a variety of products, from rope to lotion, and farmers view it as a possibly lucrative new crop. North Dakota's Agriculture Department has rules that regulate industrial hemp production, but farmers need a permit from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which the DEA has declined to grant. This year, the agency did not act on the applications in time for the farmers to get a crop in the ground – inaction the farmers said amounted to a denial.

In interviews, members of the state's congressional delegation were hesitant when asked if they believe that growing industrial hemp should be legalized. Conrad said he would like Congress to take it up but said it doesn't matter what he thinks, since it's not going to happen.

''Frankly, we've got our hands full getting things done that can be done,'' Conrad said. Pomeroy said in an interview that he believes industrial hemp deserves a fair evaluation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, but said he has no evidence that it has not been given a fair evaluation.

In a statement, Dorgan said he believes the production of industrial hemp could be an economic benefit to American farmers, but he noted that the DEA opposes it. ''Because of that, the reality is that legislation allowing the growth of hemp would not be successful in the Congress at this time,'' Dorgan said.

Congress has tentatively waded into the debate, with pro-hemp legislation introduced by Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul. Pomeroy is not signing on, and the bill shows no signs of going anywhere.

Dave Monson, a Republican state legislator who is one of the plaintiffs in the hemp case, said he is disappointed that the delegation will not help a cause he says is popular with many North Dakota farmers. He said he would rather North Dakota's representatives take up the fight and lose, proving to the courts that there is no will in Congress to make the change.

''They are doing the thing that politicians do, and that's run for cover or find the highest ground,'' he said. ''It's kind of frustrating because they are supposed to represent the people of North Dakota and the people of North Dakota want this.''

Monson, of Osnabrock, and Wayne Hauge, of Ray, filed a notice earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Bismarck, saying they would appeal their case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Monson and Hauge have argued the federal government should not be allowed to interfere in a state-regulated hemp production initiative.

The two men's state licenses to grow hemp expire at year's end, and they said they intend to apply for new licenses to grow the crop next year. A state license requires the applicant to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check.

''Right now, it's just little North Dakota fighting the federal government,'' Monson said. North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson supports growing industrial hemp and said it is disappointing that Washington doesn't have an appetite for the issue. ''It is unfortunate, because the production of industrial hemp presents virtually no potential for illegitimate purposes and because the crop has considerable potential in North Dakota and other states,'' he said.

Hemp falls under federal anti-drug rules because it has trace amounts of the mind-altering chemical THC that is found in marijuana. Hemp supporters say research has concluded that people cannot get a ''high'' from hemp, and that the North Dakota regulations ensure that only legal parts of the plant such as fiber and seed would be cultivated. The government argued that state regulations do not trump federal law, which considers hemp a controlled substance.

Source: Minot Daily News
Copyright: 2007, Associated Press
Contact: MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press
Website: Minot Daily News


Well-Known Member
They are not fighting the government, they are fighting the lumber lobby, the oil lobby, the Big Drug lobby, Building materials lobby etc...

If we would just make elections publicly financed through taxes, we could rid ourselves of this corruption.
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