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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

CONTACT:
Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671
adam@votehemp.com

North Dakota to be First State to Issue
Licenses to Hemp Farmers
Public Hearing on Proposed Rules Set for June 15

BISMARCK, ND — In a trailblazing move, North Dakota’s Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson formally proposed rules yesterday to license farmers in his state to grow industrial hemp under existing state law. With the backdrop of farmers across Canada planting over 50,000 acres of industrial hemp in 2006 to meet expanding demand for the nutritious and versatile plant in the United States, the rule-making process announced yesterday is an important step towards bringing back U.S. commercial hemp farming that was stopped nearly 50 years ago.

Commissioner Johnson will hold a public hearing on June 15 in Bismarck on the proposed rules prior to publishing final rules later this year. "These rules will implement state legislation covering the cultivation of industrial hemp in North Dakota," Johnson said. "It is an important step in the process of enabling farmers to grow and sell this valuable crop." The proposed hemp farming rules may be viewed online here.

In February, Commissioner Johnson, along with agriculture commissioners from three other states, met with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials in Washington, DC 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. This is seemingly an about face for an agency that has threatened to prosecute anyone who tries to grow non-psychoactive hemp in America.

Since North Dakota’s rules would require farmers to secure a permit from the DEA before their licenses would become effective, there is precedent for this, as the DEA permitted a test plot of industrial hemp in Hawaii from 1999 to 2003. North Dakota’s proposed rules cover commercial hemp farming and include a number of restrictions to alleviate law enforcement concerns.

Some highlights of the proposed hemp farming rules include:

  • Farmers must consent to a criminal background check, including fingerprints
  • To whom and how much the farmer sells must be documented within 30 days of sale
  • The location of the hemp field(s) must be provided using geopositioning (GPS) coordinates
  • Planted hemp seed must contain less than three-tenths of one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

"We are pleased that North Dakota is pursuing a common sense hemp policy by issuing hemp farming regulations," said Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. "U.S. farmers want to grow hemp legally like their counterparts in Canada, Europe and Asia. Many of hemp's uses, such as in foods, animal bedding, biofuel, paper and composites, will become more viable if hemp is treated like other crops. 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," said Steenstra.

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 is expected to exceed 50,000 acres in 2006, 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 www.VoteHemp.com and www.HempIndustries.org.

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