Following up on a post from last month, Oregon recently joined the ranks of the states that have passed laws permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp, joining Maryland, West Virginia, North Dakota, Maine, Hawaii, Montana and Vermont. But because federal law still defines marijuana to include industrial hemp, any farmer wishing to grow hemp must have a DEA license and the DEA refuses to issue any licenses. This is true even though to the best of my knowledge no one smokes or injests industrial hemp, which has no use as a recreational drug and is not intoxicating
As my previous post mentioned, HR 1866 would remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act, thus freeing the way for American farmers (who produced hemp for hundreds of years before the law took effect) to once again grow it. The bill now has 12 co-sponsors and may be gaining momentum. Given that the US is the only country on earth that prohibits the production of industrial hemp, and given that fact that over $350 million in hemp products are imported into the US every year from Canada, China and elsewhere in the world, we can hope that someday soon American farmers may be freed from this absurd prohibition.
Whatever the merits of banning production of marijuana, industrial hemp is a different product, with a long history of production in this country. American farmers should not be denied the ability to compete in this market, particularly with hemp seed and hemp oil becoming increasingly popular in the natural foods marketplace. Organic soapmaker Dr. Bonner’s has issued a statement in support of the bill, and many other American producers of natural products will support it as well.
Meanwhile two farmers in North Dakota who received state licenses to grow hemp, but were blocked by the DEA, have a lawsuit pending challenging the validity of the DEA action. One, David Monson, is a state legislator, a Republican and the assistant majority leader.
The federal government’s refusal to distinguish between marijuana and hemp is hard to understand. Public ignorance may be excusable, and can be remedied by education, but public officials have no excuse. For more information on the myths and realities, check out http://www.votehemp.com/myths_facts.html.