For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 15, 2007
CONTACT: Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671
Tom Murphy 207-542-4998
Judge Promises Decision by End of November in North Dakota Hemp Farming Lawsuit – Monson v. DEA
BISMARCK, ND — Two North Dakota farmers who filed a lawsuit in June to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) ban on commercial hemp farming in the United States were in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, November 14, 2007. The farmers, State Rep. David Monson of Osnabrock and Wayne Hauge of Ray, observed the oral arguments made before Judge Daniel Hovland on their behalf by attorneys Tim Purdon and Joe Sandler.
Judge Hovland stated he had read and re-read the briefs filed by both sides in the landmark case and concluded the hearing by saying, "I promise to make a decision by the end of the month," in regards to the DEA's motion to dismiss. In the meantime, Judge Hovland stayed the farmers motion for summary judgment as he felt the motion to dismiss should be dealt with first.
"Today's arguments revealed numerous weak points that the DEA is relying on to thwart this landmark case," said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. "The DEA's assertion that the farmers didn't have standing because they haven't grown industrial hemp yet was rejected by Judge Hovland when he said 'I am not convinced that the plaintiffs have to expose themselves to prosecution' and reminded Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney Wendy Ertmer, who argued on behalf of the government, that 'this Court has jurisdiction to make a declaratory judgment,' which is what we are seeking," added Steenstra.
Judge Hovland expressed skepticism that the DEA would ever act on the applications, based on the fact that an application by North Dakota State University was still pending after more than eight years. Judge Hovland also indicated he thinks that the DEA has "prejudged the merits of the applications to grow hemp." While much of the government's dispute centered on their contention that this case is not ripe because they are still considering the farmers' application, attorney Joe Sandler argued that the application the farmers made to the DEA is no longer really the issue.
"This case is unique because North Dakota is the only state to regulate industrial hemp so only the exempted portions of plant, that is, the non-viable seed, stalk and oil, enter commerce of any kind, whether intrastate or interstate," said Sandler. "When the North Dakota legislature changed its eight-year-old hemp law to no longer require a DEA license this past April, it made it a matter of state law that the farmer who goes through the licensing process need not involve the DEA in any way since only the exempted portions of the plant, as described in the Controlled Substances Act, would enter commerce."
Judge Hovland also asked Ms. Ertmer what the DOJ's position is on HR 1009, the federal Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007. Ms. Ertmer said she did not know, however Vote Hemp believes that the DOJ would in fact aggressively oppose the Act if it were to be heard in Congress. A transcript of the November 14 hearing will be available in a couple weeks. If successful, the landmark lawsuit will lead to the first state-regulated commercial cultivation of industrial hemp in fifty years.
Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp advocacy group, and its supporters are providing financial support for the lawsuit. If it is successful, states across the nation will be free to implement their own hemp farming laws without fear of federal interference. More on the case can be found online.
# # #
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.