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Schwarzenegger Again Vetoes Industrial Hemp Bill


420 Staff
Governor Cites Federal Ban in Rejecting Redrafted Legislation

On Thursday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the Industrial Hemp Farming act again, even though the bill's authors said they had redrafted the legislation from last year's version to address the governor's concerns.

The bill authorizes farmers in four counties to grow plots of nonpsychoactive hemp as a pilot project, but has no effect on federal legislation.

In a statement on his Web site, Schwarzenegger said, "I would like to support the expansion of a new agricultural commodity in this State.

"Unfortunately, I am very concerned that this bill would give legitimate growers a false sense of security and a belief that production of 'industrial hemp' is somehow a legal activity under federal law."

The redrafted bill permits farmers only in King, Imperial, Yolo and Mendocino counties to grow hemp in plots from 1 to 5 acres, using seeds grown in California or lawfully imported.

In addition, laboratories registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration must sample and test the crop to ensure the plants contain less than 0.3 per cent of tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Authors of the bill, Assemblymen Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Chuck DeVore,

R-Orange County, argue California farmers could benefit by growing the plant here instead of importing the raw materials from foreign countries.

"This bipartisan measure would have cut costs for business, opened up new opportunities for farmers, reduced the use of agricultural chemicals and cut carbon emissions," Leno said in a statement released Friday.

According to the Hemp Industries Association, U.S. retail sales of hemp products have risen to nearly $300 million annually. California companies earn more than three quarters of all U.S. retail sales of hemp foods and body care products, according to a fact sheet prepared by Leno's office.

What industry experts refer to as industrial hemp has less than 1 percent THC and can be processed into more than 25,000 different products made from fiber or oil seed, whereas marijuana has from 3 to 25 percent THC content, the fact sheet stated.

While hemp and marijuana are biologically the same species, Cannabis sativa L.,the plants have been bred for tens of thousands of years for different qualities: Hemp for fiber content in the stalks and marijuana for high drug content in the flowering tops, said University of Minnesota professor George Weiblen, a botanist who studies marijuana.

Opponents argue biological similarities make it difficult to distinguish between the two varieties and can hinder law enforcement. John Lovell, legislative council with the California Narcotics Officers Association, was pleased with the governor's decision.

"When you talk to experienced narcotics officers, ( they ) can't tell the difference" between industrial and drug cannabis plants.

"You've got to do something different, you have to actually test the plants for THC content, and no one has any equipment to do those tests in California," Lovell continued.

DeVore said in an interview Friday afternoon, "I understand it may make things difficult for law enforcement, but so does the Fourth Amendment.

"The problem we face with this, is it takes some explaining to do as to why our California farmers should be free to compete in growing a nondrug, perfectly legal crop," DeVore continued. "If industrial hemp was truly a problem, then you shouldn't be able to import it."

Leno also is frustrated by the decision.

"It is disappointing that Gov. Schwarzenegger chose to embrace an irrational application of federal drug law that prevents California farmers from producing a valuable raw material for our own U.S. industries," he said in a statement Friday.

Hemp is grown in 30 countries worldwide. North Dakota is the only state to legalize industrial hemp.

Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Contact: triblet@angnewspapers.com
Website: Inside Bay Area - Oakland Tribune - Home

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