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New Federal Bill Would Legalize Growing Hemp In U.S.

Cozmo

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A new federal bill would once again make it legal in the United States to grow industrial hemp, a crop advocates say offers myriad products - from food to building materials to fabrics.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and nine co-sponsors introduced House Resolution 1009, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007, on Feb. 13.

This is the second bill introduced in an attempt to legalize industrial hemp growing since it was banned in 1970's Controlled Substances Act, said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp. Murphy's group is working to build markets for, and educate people about, industrial hemp.

Paul has led both attempts to legalize hemp, having introduced a similar bill in 2005 that failed.

"Most people in Congress do not view hemp in the light of being an agriculture or economic development issue," Murphy said. "They view it as a drug policy issue."

Hemp is related to the marijuana plant; both are in the botanical genus, cannabis. However, hemp contains only a very small amount of the psychoactive compound Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Dr. David P. West, lead scientist for Hawaii's Industrial Hemp Research Project, said the low THC levels mean no one can get high smoking hemp.

Industrial hemp as a crop is gaining interest around the country. Vote Hemp reports that 15 states have passed pro-hemp legislation, with seven of them - Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia - removing barriers to its production or research.

California's attempt at pro-hemp legislation, AB1147, was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, citing federal law that considers all types of cannabis as controlled substances.

North Dakota is avidly pursuing hemp as a crop. On Feb. 5, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson issued hemp growing licenses to two farmers, Wayne Hauge and state Rep. David Monson.

However, Monson and Hauge must still get registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration, besides undergoing background checks by the FBI, having their fields identified through satellite tracking, undergoing seed certification and mandatory lab tests.

Johnson said Monson and Hauge must pay $2,300 each for the licenses from the DEA, fees which aren't refundable if the DEA decides not to register their hemp crops.

Last week, Johnson met with DEA officials in Washington to ask them to grant registration to Hauge and Monson. He called the meeting "a big disappointment."

He said he asked DEA's officials for a decision within two months so the farmers could plant in time for growing season.

"They replied that it would be difficult for them to make a decision in two months," Johnson said.

If DEA offers registration in July, "it's of no value," Johnson said. The growing applications and fees are only good for the calendar year, he added.

He said he can't imagine why DEA would be against farmers having another legitimate crop available, unless it's that the agency believes it will give a foothold to marijuana growers.

Johnson said a field of industrial hemp would be "the dumbest place in the world for someone to grow marijuana."

The fields are constantly monitored, he said, and hemp would degrade any marijuana growing near it.

For farmers, the issue is simple, said Johnson: It's about having another legitimate crop, with a growing demand, to add to their rotation.

Hemp, he said, is a low-input crop, which grows quickly and doesn't need weed control.

He said farmers also know hemp still has a relatively small market, but that the market will grow if farmers are allowed to grow it in the U.S.

In Canada, industrial hemp was legalized in 1998, said Murphy, where 48,000 acres are grown today, mostly for food.

China grows hemp for textiles, he said, while France and Germany grow it to use in plastics. A promising use for hemp in the future would be ethanol from biomass, because hemp yields more biomass per acre than other crops, Murphy said.

Today's U.S. market for hemp food products is between $14 and $16 million, said Murphy, with the the market for all hemp products worldwide between $270 and $300 million, and growing.

Despite the hurdles ahead of them, Johnson said many North Dakota farmers are interested in growing hemp. He said he's tried to dissuade them until the DEA makes a decision.

Johnson said he believes the federal legislation isn't needed because the DEA has the authority to allow farmers to grow hemp.

In March 2003 the DEA issued final rules on cannabis products, which address legal status of products derived from hemp.

The DEA stated at the time that the rules would allow for hemp's "legitimate" industrial uses - including paper, rope, clothing, animal feed, shampoo and soap - under highly controlled circumstances.

However, the agency said cannabis products intended for human consumption would be prohibited in accordance with federal law.

DEA can differentiate between hemp and marijuana, Johnson said, but so far they haven't chosen to do so.

"One of the farmers is talking about court action if there isn't timely action on the request," Johnson said.

Source: [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, Sans Serif]Capital Press[/FONT]
Author: [FONT=ARIAL, SANS SERIF]Elizabeth Larson
Contact:
[/FONT][FONT=ARIAL, SANS SERIF]elarson@capitalpress.com[/FONT]
Copyright: 2007 by Capital Press Agriculture Weekly
Website: Capital Press Agriculture News
 

CubsRule420

New Member
About time that we can have hemp in the US. Cause who in the right mind would even think of smoking a piece of rope material? HAHA.
 
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