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For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 23, 2006

Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671

Quest for U.S. Industrial Hemp Farming Advances
Ag Commissioners of Four States Meet DEA Officials on Hemp Farming
Legislation in California and Vermont on Track

WASHINGTON, DC — Agriculture commissioners from four states met with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials last week to explore acceptable rules on industrial hemp farming. The official meeting marked a turning point in the federal government’s relations with hemp-friendly policymakers who have been routinely ignored by DEA officials who still threaten to prosecute anyone who tries to grow non-psychoactive hemp in America.

Led by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, agriculture commissioners from Massachusetts, West Virginia and Wisconsin met with DEA officials, including Joseph Rannazzisi (Deputy Assistant Administrator), Robert C. Gleason (Deputy Chief Counsel) and Eric Akres (Chief of Congressional Affairs). "The DEA people were very cordial, but they told us that the process of legalizing the production of industrial hemp will be extremely complicated under existing federal law," said Commissioner Johnson. "The DEA has never responded to our earlier inquiries, but today we were able to present our case and learn from them what may be required in terms of regulations and safeguards."

North Dakota and West Virginia already have laws on the books that allow hemp farming but are hamstrung because the DEA insists it has the authority to regulate the crop under the Controlled Substances Act and considers growing it to be cultivation of marijuana. However, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) won a major federal court decision in 2004 that blocks the DEA from banning hemp products made from the seed and fiber of the cannabis plant, as expressed in the federal government’s statutory definition of marijuana.

"We are pleased that North Dakota is issuing hemp farming regulations after consulting with the DEA," says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. "We hope the meeting with the DEA is an indication that they are finally willing to discuss how U.S. farmers can legally grow hemp like their counterparts in Canada, Europe and Asia. Ideally the finish line won’t be limited to a handful of states, however even one state growing hemp would make a major impact on the availability of raw materials for U.S. hemp manufacturers. Many of hemp’s uses such as foods, animal bedding, biofuel and paper will become more viable if hemp is treated like any other crop. How can a raw material that’s legal to import, to sell, to eat and to use in all kinds of everyday products not be legal for farmers in America to grow? No other agricultural commodity is restricted to just importation," says Steenstra. "The DEA has the authority to allow North Dakota farmers to grow hemp. If the DEA is unwilling to give support to the new North Dakota hemp rules, we may well be heading towards another legal showdown."

Meanwhile, later this year California and Vermont could become the eighth and ninth states to pass hemp farming legislation. Last month the California Assembly passed AB 1147 which has now been sent on to the state Senate. Later this year Vermont legislators will also consider H 455 which would define hemp and allow licensed farmers to grow the crop.

Currently seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have passed pro-hemp farming laws. Sales of hemp foods in 2004/2005 grew by 50% over the previous 12-month period. U.S. retail sales of hemp products are estimated to now be $250 to $300 million per year. There are more than 2.5 million cars on U.S. roads that contain hemp composites. Hemp cultivation in Canada exceeds 24,000 acres per year, while European farmers now grow more than 40,000 acres.

More information about industrial hemp legislation and the crop’s many uses may be found at and




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