Efforts in Some States Pave Way for New Crop!

Efforts in Some States Pave Way for New Crop!
Posted by FoM on June 06, 1999 at 08:00:22 PT
Source: Lexington Herald Leader
Bluegrass farmers' dream of growing U.S. hemp finally might be coming true, but not in Kentucky.North Dakota, spurred by the first-year profits of neighboring Canadian farmers, legalized industrial hemp production in April.
But Hawaii will probably get it into the ground faster. On July 7, Gov. Benjamin Cayetano will sign a bill authorizing 10 acres of variety trials.``We're hoping to put seed in the ground in September,'' said Hawaii state Rep. Cynthia Thielen. ``I think it's quite embarrassing that Kentucky's so far behind in this. ... Kentucky can watch our dust.''At least 12 other states, including Tennessee, have passed or are considering pro-hemp legislation.Ironically, this has happened in no small part because of the work of Kentucky hemp activists, whose efforts to get legal permission to grow the crop have made little progress in their own state.``I cannot understand why a state with your history in hemp won't consider this crop,'' Thielen said. Hawaii is looking to replace idle sugar plantations with hemp fields that could eventually fuel an ethanol plant.Through some high-profile legal wrangling, sometimes involving actor Woody Harrelson, and constant Internet efforts, the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association has begun to make a name for itself nationally and at home.It is a measure of the group's efforts that yesterday the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, with Mayor Fred Siegelman's blessing, sponsored the ribbon-cutting at the new Kentucky Hemp Museum in Versailles.Lexington Mayor Pam Miller will give the opening address at the co-op's annual meeting this month in Fayette County, said Joe Hickey, the association's executive director.Hickey and association President Andy Graves have testified before state legislatures in Oregon and Missouri. Winchester farmer Gale Glenn sits on the North American Industrial Hemp Council board.`Our worst enemies'Glenn has been very vocal about advocates of legalizing marijuana who try to hitch onto hemp's bandwagon.``They are our worst enemies,'' Glenn has been quoted as saying. ``If marijuana didn't exist, hemp would be growing here on hundreds of thousands of acres.''Hemp advocates strive to put as much distance between hemp and marijuana as possible.``There's not a tie-dyed T-shirt in the group,'' said James Woolsey, the former CIA director who now lobbies for the hemp council. He blames the lack of action in most states on ``inertia and public relations.''That is what the Kentucky activists have worked hard to change, and they have found many receptive to their message. But at home, the hemp movement has been slow to grow. ``I don't know of any legislator yet who's said they were willing to put forth a bill,'' said Rep. Joe Barrows, D-Versailles. ``I think it would be appropriate for us to do a little research ourselves, a controlled experimental effort.''Of Thielen's criticism, he said, ``We're not any different than most places. The first reaction is the understandable confusion between hemp and marijuana. I don't think we've gotten entirely past that point. There's still a real reluctance in law enforcement.''The problem: THCThe problem for all states has always been the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA reading of the law is that hemp is marijuana and therefore is illegal to grow because it contains THC, the drug that produces marijuana's high, said Bud Scholtz, hemp council chairman.But a recent letter to Thielen from a DEA administrator appears to soften that position.``The DEA is currently reviewing the security regulations ... as part of the review, DEA will consider setting the level of THC content for ... hemp that may be grown for industrial purposes,'' wrote Gregory Williams, chief of DEA operations on April 23.``This review is based on the premise that public and commercial interest may be better served if the cultivation of Cannabis sativa L., hemp is authorized by the appropriate Federal and State entities.''Discussions, which have included DEA drug czar Barry McCaffrey, are apparently at a delicate stage. ``We're making good progress,'' Scholtz said. ``We had talks with General McCaffrey recently, but I don't want to make a comment on that right now.'' The review is still in progress, DEA spokeswoman Rogene Wade confirmed yesterday. ``The DEA is reviewing the security issue that would be associated with the manufacture (of hemp),'' she said. The agency is looking at the types of data that would be required for licensure, she said.It is not actually illegal to grow hemp (or marijuana, for that matter); you just need a federal license to do it. But, say hemp activists, you can't get a license.That's what states ready to grow hemp hope will change soon.The fight in other states has not been easy. In Hawaii, Thielen said, the police lobby tried to kill the bill. ``Practically all of the legislators were not aware of the distinction between the plants,'' she said. In Oregon, pro-hemp legislation was killed out of ``ignorance,'' said state Rep. Floyd Prozanski. In Oregon, hemp could become a renewable source of paper pulp. ``In some states, they know it's rope, not dope. Other states are pigeonholed. The DEA's going to have to come around.''Signs of softeningThere are further signs that may be happening.The DEA stopped arguing that hemp cannot be distinguished in the field from marijuana. ``That's been pretty much shot down,'' Scholtz said. It's grown in 33 countries, including Canada, largely without law enforcement difficulties, he said. Manufacturers have found plenty of uses for hemp -- the Kentucky Hemp Museum displays dozens of modern products ranging from feed to clothing to fiberboard to lip balm. ``You can eat it, wear it and live in it,'' said Jake Graves, the Fayette County farmer and chairman of the Kentucky Hemp Museum board. Whether there would be any money in it is something economists do not agree on.One University of Kentucky study found there would be little market for a Kentucky-grown product in a market flooded with cheap, foreign hemp. But another UK study last year estimated Kentucky farmers could make up to $600 an acre.Canadian farmers are clearing $300 an acre in profit, said North Dakota Rep. David Monson, who sponsored that state's bill.Monson pointed out that until the federal government lets them, North Dakota farmers can't grow hemp either.``I'd say there's a fairly decent possibility that it could happen next year,'' Monson said. ``North Dakota is behind that all the way from the grass-roots to our governor.''Now, he said, other states need to get involved. ``If every state would do it, the federal government couldn't ignore it,'' he said. ``Every time a state introduces legislation, it goes a step farther.''
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