For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671
Quest for U.S. Industrial Hemp
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
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
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