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EDITORIAL ADVISORY
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CONTACT: Patrick Goggin 415-312-0084
Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671
adam@votehemp.com

Governor Can Help California Economy and Environment by Signing New Industrial Hemp Farming Bill

SACRAMENTO, CA — Vote Hemp, the nation's leading grassroots organization working to revitalize U.S. industrial hemp production, urges California editorial writers to support AB 684, The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act. This landmark, bi-partisan legislation is now up for the Governor's signature and would establish guidelines for farming the non-psychoactive plant which is used in a wide variety of everyday consumer products, including food, body care, clothing, paper, auto parts and bio-fuel.

AB 684 was authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine). Thanks to their leadership, this is the second time in two years that a bi-partisan hemp farming bill has passed the legislature. AB 684 is very different from AB 1147 which was vetoed by the Governor last year.

California Industrial Hemp Farming Act Changes from 2006 to 2007

  • AB 684 takes careful and measured steps toward industrial hemp cultivation with a 4-county pilot program that will sunset after 5 years. Near the end of the pilot program the Attorney General will report to the legislature on law enforcement impacts, and the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) will provide a report on the economic impacts.
  • The 4 pilot counties include Imperial, Kings, Mendocino and Yolo. These counties were selected based on their agricultural conditions and local support for industrial hemp.
  • New requirements include the reporting of crop GPS locations, tighter controls on THC test samples, a five-acre crop minimum, and prohibitions on the pruning or tending of individual plants, which is indicative of marijuana cultivation.
  • Another difference is the support of the Merced and Imperial County Farm Bureaus, as well as the neutrality of the California State Sheriffs Association and the California District Attorneys Association.
  • Industrial hemp is not a partisan issue. The legislature in North Dakota unanimously passed a hemp bill similar to AB 684 earlier this year. In California last February, the highly respected social research firm Zogby International polled 800 likely voters on the issue of industrial hemp. 71% said they support "changing state law so that California farmers can grow industrial hemp." 60% of Republicans and 67% of rural voters said they support allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp.
  • The goal of AB 684 is to carefully assess if industrial hemp will be a profitable new crop for California farmers and if it can be grown without impacts on marijuana enforcement. This is a reasonable and careful step forward on this long-debated issue.

Hemp is a versatile crop, and its sales are growing as an organic food and body care ingredient. Imports of hemp seed from Canada grew 300% between 2006 and 2007. Today, more than 30 industrialized nations grow industrial hemp and export it to the U.S. Hemp is the only crop that is illegal to grow yet legal for Americans to import.

California businesses spend millions of dollars each year importing hemp from Canada, China and Europe. Demand for hemp products has been growing rapidly in recent years. The U.S. hemp market now exceeds an estimated $300 million in annual retail sales. From natural soaps to healthy foods, there are a variety of "Made in California" hemp products that could benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber and oil.

For the environment, the agricultural benefits are not limited to the versatility of uses. Industrial hemp is an excellent rotational crop because its dense growth smothers weeds without herbicides. Hemp requires less water and agricultural chemicals than other crops, has deep roots that leave the soil in excellent condition for the next crop, and is proven to increase yields. These benefits save farmers money and reduce the amount of pesticides, defoliants and chemical fertilizers that run into our waterways.

Prior to harvest, a farmer must obtain a test report from a DEA-registered laboratory documenting the THC content of the crop. Farmers must retain a copy of the test report for two years from its date of sampling, make it available to law enforcement officials upon request, and provide a copy to each person purchasing, transporting or otherwise obtaining the oil, cake or seed of the plant. The legislation clarifies that the cultivation of industrial hemp is legal on the condition it contains no more than three tenths of one percent (0.3%) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Crops that exceed the 0.3% THC limit must be destroyed.

To eliminate the possibility that industrial hemp could be mistaken for marijuana, the bill does not include the leaves or flowering tops among the legal parts of the industrial hemp plant. Regardless of THC content, leaves and flowers that are removed from the field of cultivation are not considered industrial hemp. Hemp flowers have no psychoactive effects or legal commercial application. Nevertheless, it is important to prevent defendants from making the spurious claim that confiscated marijuana leaves and flowers are industrial hemp. The bright-line definitions and requirements in AB 684 ensure that law enforcement will not be negatively impacted.

Vote Hemp's goal is to relieve California farmers of the over-reaching prohibition on industrial hemp cultivation and reintroduce the crop to the state. California must assert its right to regulate industrial hemp as permitted by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress and the 2004 9th U.S. Circuit Court decision in HIA v. DEA.

If signed into law, AB 684 would revitalize commercial industrial hemp farming, which occurred in the state until shortly after World War II. Farmers have great expectations for the crop, given the exceptionally large yields that California farmers once achieved and the great strides made in agricultural irrigation and mechanization since hemp was last grown.

Support for state action on industrial hemp farming is growing among U.S. manufacturers whose appetite for hemp fiber, seed and oil is fueling the increased demand. For example, in the automotive industry, industrial hemp is used in the natural fiber composites that have rapidly replaced fiberglass as the material of choice for vehicle interiors. FlexForm, an Indiana manufacturer whose hemp-content materials are found in an estimated 2.5 million vehicles in North America today, uses approximately 250,000 pounds of hemp fiber per year. The company says industrial hemp could easily take a greater share of the 4 million pounds of natural fiber it uses yearly, as "hemp fiber possesses physical properties beneficial to our natural fiber-based composites." In addition, FlexForm says it would "gladly expand domestic purchases."

Among the numerous companies supporting the bill are Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, makers of North America's top-selling natural soap, Alterna, a salon hair styling product manufacturer, and Nutiva, a rising star among innovative health food companies. All three of these businesses are based in California and currently must import hemp from other countries.

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Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, nonprofit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop. More information about hemp legislation and the crop's many uses may be found at www.VoteHemp.com or www.HempIndustries.org. BETA SP or DVD Video News Releases featuring footage of hemp farming in other countries are available upon request by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671.

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