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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

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

Passage of CA Hemp Bill Would Benefit California Economy and Environment
AB 1147 Heads to Final Votes in August

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 1147, The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, as final Senate and Assembly votes are expected in August. This landmark bipartisan legislation would establish guidelines for farming the non-psychoactive plant used in a wide variety of everyday consumer products, including food, body care, clothing, paper, auto parts and bio-fuel.

Since passing out of the Assembly in January, AB 1147 has gained momentum as more legislators learn that 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 $270 million in estimated annual retail sales. The new law would give farmers the ability to legally supply California manufacturers with hemp seed, oil and fiber.

For the environment, the agricultural benefits are not limited to the versatility of uses. Industrial hemp is an excellent rotational crop because it naturally reduces nematode populations (microscopic worms that eat crops), while its dense growth smothers weeds. Hemp requires less water and agricultural chemicals than other crops and has deep roots that leave the soil in excellent condition for the next crop. These benefits save farmers money and reduce the amount of pesticides, defoliants and chemical fertilizer that runs into our waterways.

The primary reason industrial hemp has not been grown in the U.S. since the 1950s is a perceived similarity to marijuana; however, the plants are very different. The industrial hemp plant's stalk is long and strong, has few branches, has been bred for maximum production of seed, and grows up to 16 feet in height. It is planted in densities of 100 to 300 plants per square yard. On the other hand, marijuana is a tropical variety of cannabis that grows up to 6 feet in height and has been bred to have many branches to maximize flowering sites and minimize seeds. It is planted with wide spaces between plants to enhance its bushiness. Marijuana growers kill male pollinating plants to promote flower growth, while industrial hemp farmers leave the male plants as they are crucial to seed production.

The California Industrial Hemp Act was introduced in February of 2005 by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno. This year, the bill was amended, and Republican Assemblyman Chuck Devore joined as a co-author. AB 1147 has been carefully crafted to comply with federal law and minimize impact to law enforcement. It includes tough regulations without placing an undue burden on farmers. The bill only permits cultivation of industrial hemp when grown as an agricultural field crop or in a research setting. Backyard or horticultural cultivation is prohibited. Any clandestine grove of cannabis is considered marijuana regardless of THC content.

Prior to harvest, a farmer must obtain a laboratory 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. 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 current legal commercial application. Nevertheless, it is important to prevent marijuana defendants from making the specious claim that confiscated marijuana leaves and flowers are industrial hemp. The bright-line definitions and requirements in AB 1147 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. 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. 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).

Final passage of AB 1147 could revitalize commercial industrial hemp farming, which occurred in the state until shortly after World War II. Farmers have high expectations for the crop, given the exceptionally large hemp yields that California farmers once achieved and the great strides made in agricultural irrigation and mechanization since hemp was last grown.

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. According to the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), there are over 50 member businesses that make or sell hemp products in California.

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."

Patagonia, an environmentally-conscious outdoor clothing manufacturer and retailer that sells hemp clothing at Whole Foods, has recently added its name to the list of businesses that support California's hemp bill. That list already includes Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps (North America's top-selling natural soap company), Alterna (a high-end salon hair products company) and Nutiva (a rising star among innovative health food companies) — all three of which are based in California.

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.

Currently seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes. California's AB 1147 already passed a series of committee votes and a floor vote in the Assembly. Final votes in the Senate and Assembly are expected before the end of August.

More information about industrial hemp legislation and the crop's many uses may be found at www.VoteHemp.com and www.HempIndustries.org. BETA SP or DVD Video News Release featuring footage of hemp farming in other countries is available upon request by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671.

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