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ND Farmers File Another Industrial Hemp Appeal In District Court


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
North Dakota government leaders and producers aren't giving up on growing industrial hemp.

Another appeal of a lawsuit decision regarding the right of farmers with state licenses to grow industrial hemp without worrying about the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arresting them was filed last week.

Two North Dakota farmers, State Rep. David Monson and Wayne Hauge, appealed a 2007 industrial hemp lawsuit decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit last week.

While North Dakota producers can purchase state licenses to grow industrial hemp, the DEA continues to ignore their requests for a federal registration - even after a district court judge called the agency out on it.

In 2007, U.S. District Judge Dan Hovland said he had to dismiss the farmers' lawsuit against the DEA because of federal law that lumped industrial hemp together with marijuana under the controlled substances act.

However, he chided the DEA for not responding to the farmers' and other agencies' requests.

At that time, Hovland said "there is no realistic prospect the plaintiffs (Monson and Hauge) will ever be issued a license by the DEA to grow industrial hemp."

He called the DEA's action an "unreasonable delay."

In another example, the court noted that the North Dakota Legislature had ordered North Dakota State University to begin testing industrial hemp cultivars for farmers in the late 1990s. NDSU applied to the DEA for the right to do so in 1999, but never heard back from the agency.

Hovland said the DEA had simply ignored the request.

Interestingly, a short time after the DEA was chided by Hovland, the agency contacted NDSU and said the university could begin cultivating hemp varieties as long as significant security measures were put in place.

The DEA continued to ignore the farmers' request for a federal license, however.

Adam Eidinger of VoteHemp, the organization that is funding the lawsuits, said it has been three years and the DEA continues to ignore the farmers' requests for a federal registration.

"The DEA can't ignore the farmers forever," Eidinger said. "We want to know one way or another what their decision is so we can move forward with this."

Eidinger said the new Obama administration has softened the government's stance on medical marijuana even though that drug has nothing whatsoever to do with industrial hemp. While they are both members of the cannabis family, industrial hemp has such a small amount of THC, the psychoactive part of the plant, in it that it is useless to anyone wanting to use it as a drug.

Industrial hemp is simply a crop that can be made into many healthy food products and industrial products that are exceptionally strong, like rope and car door paneling.

The administration has set internal policy allowing states to issue their own laws, and does not want to meddle in each state's business. That would seem to include industrial hemp laws, which North Dakota and several other states have passed for their own farmers.

Eidinger said he hopes the North Dakota Congressional delegation will take up the cause since they are huge supporters of farmers and the farm bill.

There has been growing support among North Dakota leaders over the years asking the federal government to stay out of the issue and allow North Dakota to issue licenses and control industrial hemp farming within its own borders.

In November 2009, four North Dakota governmental leaders sent a letter to the Department of Justice. The four included Gov. John Hoeven, who is now running for the U.S. Senate; State Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring; State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem; and Rep. David Monson.

The four requested a meeting with officials at the Justice Department so they could further explain their position supporting the state regulating industrial hemp and the DEA's interference.

The letter stated that Monson and Hauge had received state licenses four years in a row to grow industrial hemp, but had never received a federal license from the DEA.

It also stated the farmers were afraid to go ahead and plant industrial hemp, fearing the DEA would charge them with a crime.

It reiterated the fact the North Dakota Legislature passed legislation supporting the commercial production of hemp in 1997, and that NDSU had conducted a study validating industrial hemp as a alternative rotation crop.

The letter read, "Industrial hemp is not marijuana and does not need to be regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. While the administration has recently softened its enforcement stance regarding the unlawful use of marijuana for medical purposes, North Dakota's licensed hemp growers are barred from supplying our domestic market with a product their licensed Canadian counterparts have unfettered access to."

Has the U.S. Justice Department responded to the letter?

Judy Carlson of the state agriculture department, whose contact information was listed in the letter, said she was notified the letter was simply forwarded to the DEA.

Hoeven's office said they had received the same information about the letter being forwarded to the DEA from the Justice Department, and Stenehjem's office replied they had not heard back from the department at all.

Meanwhile, NDSU vice-president D.C. Coston said there has been no further funding given to the university to build a secure facility to grown hemp cultivars.

The DEA told NDSU in order to begin breeding industrial hemp varieties, they would need a secure facility with security fencing around it and 24-hour camera enforcement.

The Agricultural Products Utilization Commission (APUC) had given NDSU about half the money needed, but additional funds have not been forthcoming.

NDSU associate professor in plant sciences Burton Johnson agreed with that.

Johnson conducted the study commissioned by the state Legislature in 1997 on the feasibility of growing industrial hemp as an alternative rotational crop.

He said if the university received the necessary funds to begin the research, the facility at Langdon, N.D., would be the best and most secure place to conduct the breeding and evaluation of industrial hemp cultivars.

"There's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built before we can begin the work," Johnson said. "But I don't see why it wouldn't be possible. Canadian farmers are growing it successfully right across the border."

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Farm & Ranch Guide
Contact: Farm & Ranch Guide
Copyright: 2010 Farm & Ranch Guide
Website: ND farmers file another industrial hemp appeal in district court
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