Hemp Bill Would Legalize Growing

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 24, 2001.

  1. By Ucilia Wang, The Press Democrat
    Source: Press Democrat

    A new state bill to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp may lead to political struggles similar to those involving its cousin plant, marijuana.
    State Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, D-Duncans Mills, introduced a bill Tuesday that would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp, which is virtually prohibited by the federal government but has garnered approvals from several states.

    Industrial hemp is used to make a variety of products, such as clothing, food, paper and even automotive parts. Hemp products can be sold or made legally in the United States, but manufacturers have to buy raw hemp from other countries, such as China and Canada.

    A spokesman for Assembly minority leader Bill Campbell, R-Villa Park, said Thursday that Strom-Martin's bill likely will face stiff opposition from Republicans.

    And even if the Legislature passes the bill and the governor signs it, its impact could be minimal. Federal law prohibits the cultivation of industrial hemp except by permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the agency has allowed only one such permit in the past 40 years.

    Industrial hemp and marijuana are subspecies of the same plant, but hemp contains a much lower level of the hallucinogenic ingredient found in marijuana.

    Strom-Martin's bill, AB448, would allow growth of industrial hemp through a licensing program.

    John Roulac, president and founder of Nutiva, a maker of hemp food products in Sebastopol, said state approval of industrial hemp legislation sends a message to Congress.

    "The more states that step forward and pass legislation, the more pressure they can put on the federal government to respond to what really is the state's rights issue," Roulac said.

    Strom-Martin authored a 1999 resolution urging the Legislature to consider legalizing industrial hemp farming. The resolution was approved 41-30, with one Republican voting for it and four Democrats voting against it.

    Republicans in the Assembly will likely vote against the new bill, said James Fisfis, press secretary for Campbell.

    "In the past, we have opposed legislation that supported the concept of growing industrial hemp. It was seen as a microstep toward eventually legalizing marijuana," Fisfis said. "We would probably oppose the bill."

    Officials with the California Farm Bureau Federation said they haven't taken a position on the bill yet and need time to study the issue.

    Bob Krauter, spokesman for the federation, said he hasn't heard any strong demand for legalizing industrial hemp cultivation from farmers.

    There has been a growing movement to legalize industrial hemp farming in the country. About a dozen states have passed legislation allowing research on or production of the crop, though no farmers in those states are producing industrial hemp commercially because of the federal restrictions.

    Only Hawaii has a permit from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to grow industrial hemp, which is used for research purposes only. The first test plots were planted in December 1999.

    Proponents of industrial hemp said the plant isn't a controlled substance, so its cultivation should be legal.

    "Hemp is considered the most nutritious feed in the world, due to its balance of Omega 3, protein and Vitamin E," said Roulac.

    The Hemp Industries Association, a trade group in Occidental, said $200 million worth of hemp products were sold in the United States last year.

    Note: Strom-Martin proposes symbolic measure despite federal prohibition.

    You can reach Staff Writer Ucilia Wang at 462-6473 or e-mail: uwang@pressdemocrat.com

    Source: Press Democrat, The (CA)
    Author: Ucilia Wang, The Press Democrat
    Published: February 23, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Press Democrat
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    Hemp Industries Association: http://www.thehia.org/

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