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Vote Hemp Press Release: North Dakota Farmers File Lawsuit Against DEA to Grow Industrial Hemp

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 18, 2007 CONTACT: Adam Eidinger, T: 202-744-2671 or E: adam@votehemp.com, or Tom Murphy, T: 207-542-4998, E: tom@votehemp.com North Dakota Farmers File Lawsuit Against DEA to Grow Industrial Hemp Plaintiffs Seek Federal Recognition of State-Issued Hemp Farming Licenses BISMARCK, ND – Two North Dakota farmers filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota in an effort to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) obstruction of commercial hemp farming in the United States. If successful, the legal action would result in licensed hemp farmers receiving assurances that no federal agency could hold them criminally liable under the Controlled Substances Act. Vote Hemp’s grassroots supporters are funding the legal action. A copy of the complaint is available online at: http://www.votehemp.com/legal_cases_ND.html. The farmers – State Rep. David Monson from Osnabrock and Wayne Hauge from Ray – were issued their state licenses to grow industrial hemp from North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson in February 2007. At that time the farmers applied for a DEA permit to grow industrial hemp and import live seed. Over the next few months, however, the agency’s inaction on the applications fueled frustration in North Dakota’s legislature. When lawmakers concluded that DEA had no intention of working cooperatively with the state’s first-in-the-nation hemp farming rules, the North Dakota legislature voted overwhelmingly to drop the DEA licensing requirement from the statute. “I applied for my North Dakota state license in January and was hopeful that DEA would act quickly and affirm my right to plant industrial hemp this year. Unfortunately, DEA has not responded in any way other than to state that it would take them a lot more time than the window of time I have to import seed and plant the crop,” said Rep. David Monson, who is the Assistant Majority (Republican) Leader. “It appears that DEA really doesn’t want to work with anyone to resolve the issue,” Monson added. One of the central arguments in the litigation is that industrial hemp is defined to be those varieties of Cannabis that have no drug value and are cultivated exclusively for fiber and seed. Although useless as a drug crop, industrial hemp plants are distinct varieties of Cannabis sativa L., the same species from which marijuana varieties come. DEA considers industrial hemp plants to be “marihuana,” a controlled substance under Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq., the possession or production of which is subject to severe criminal penalties under that law, including property forfeiture. “We are asking that DEA to do nothing, exactly what they have done for ten years,” says Tim Purdon one of the attorneys working for Monson and Hauge. “North Dakota’s rules no longer require a DEA permit so we are basically asking the court to tell DEA to leave our farmers alone.” The express language of the CSA has specifically provided that hemp fiber, seed oil and seed incapable of germination are exempt from the definition of “marihuana” and are thus not controlled substances under that law. By virtue of this exemption, it is currently lawful under federal law – and has been for almost 70 years – to import into the U.S., sell within the U.S., and make and sell products made from, the excluded parts of the Cannabis plant (i.e., hemp fiber, stalk, seed oil and seed incapable of germination). The farmers seek a declaration that the CSA does not apply to the industrial hemp plants they seek to cultivate pursuant to state law because: (1) only hemp fiber, stalk, sterilized seed and seed oil, items expressly exempted from the CSA, will enter the marketplace; and (2) the industrial hemp to be grown will be useless as a drug crop due to North Dakota legal requirements for extremely low THC levels. Further, to the extent the DEA attempts to argue that, despite these facts, the CSA does apply to hemp farming under North Dakota law, this would be an unconstitutional federal restraint on commerce occurring purely within the borders of North Dakota. “I want to grow hemp because it will fill a niche market in numerous areas,” says fourth generation farmer and certified public accountant Wayne Hauge. “In recent years there has been strong growth in demand for hemp seeds in the U.S., but the American farmer is being left out while Canadian, European and Chinese farmers are filling the void created by our outdated federal policy.” Last year, just over 48,000 acres of hemp were grown in Canada, primarily in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, provinces that border North Dakota. Hemp farmers in Canada averaged $250 CDN per acre in profit in 2006, according to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, an association of businesses, farmers and researchers. Hemp is a good rotational crop with the ability to reduce weeds in future cereal crops. Very few chemicals, if any, are required to grow the crop which is considered a good alternative to those with harmful environmental impacts such as cotton, tobacco and soy. In the largest hemp producing country, China, which grows 2 million acres, hemp hurds are processed into lightweight boards, and hemp fibers, already used in the paper and automotive industries, are finding new uses as reinforcement in plastics for products such as window frames and floor coverings. (In fact, some of these innovative products will be used on a large scale at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, according to news reports.) In Sweden, companies including IKEA, Volvo and Saab have shown interest in hemp fibers and hurds for use in vehicle interiors and furniture. In the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, considerable investments are being made to develop utilize hemp fiber in composites which are used to manufacture auto parts for BMW, Chrysler and Mercedes. In Canada, Germany and Japan, businesses are investigating reinforcing Polylactide (PLA) plastic with hemp fibers in order to widen the technology’s field of applications. # # # Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow the 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.
Location: 
Bismarck, ND
United States

Charges in khat case dropped

Location: 
Seattle, WA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Seattle Times
URL: 
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003753377_khat19m.html

Response from former ONDCP official to my China/death penalty post

On Friday I posted a piece on China's use of the death penalty for drug offenses, criticizing the UN, and secondarily the US, for programs that I believe are inadvertently feeding into this. My criticism of the US related to a drug enforcement cooperation agreement with China that was put in place in 2000 by then-Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Barry McCaffrey. I got an email over the weekend from Bob Weiner, who served as ONDCP's Director of Public Affairs from 1995-2001, submitting these comments for the blog:
David, Saw your piece… The arrangement with China never was intended to mandate or magnify their death penalty -- they are choosing their own enforcement tools, which as so many human rights abuses in China are excessive. The arrangement—and I was there and organized the news conference with US (including Gen. McCaffrey) and Chinese officials—was simply to get them to agree with us in enforcing international drug laws and treaties. What we saw there, including thousands of people in treatment factories but not getting real treatment, and the unbridled flow of methamphetamine and opium, was unconscionable.
Location: 
China

A New Suit By Farmers Against the DEA Illustrates Why The War on Drugs Should Not Include a War on Hemp

Location: 
ND
United States
Publication/Source: 
FindLaw (CA)
URL: 
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20070619_colburn.html

Pot, Aliens, and ONDCP

Seth Stevenson at Slate is in love with the new ONDCP ad in which a pot-smoker's girlfriend dumps him for a non-smoking alien:
Grade: A. This is very possibly the most effective, and least offensive, anti-marijuana campaign ever created. I know that ONDCP, and the Partnership for a Drug Free America, are cautiously thrilled with it. I expect it will be the model for years to come.

I'm not going to beat Stevenson up over this. He shares my belief that these ads shouldn't be offensive, and I agree that this is obviously tame by ONDCP standards. But what on earth does it mean to say that ONDCP is "cautiously thrilled" with this?

When has ONDCP ever been less than thrilled with their advertisements? They've vigorously defended their media campaign throughout its numerous incarnations, never once finding fault, even as a growing mountain of evidence depicts their public outreach efforts as an undeniable failure. Could it be that they were more candid with Seth Stevenson than the U.S. Congress?

Stevenson's analysis is fair enough, at least insofar as this ad is concerned. But, dude, before you go gushing anymore about truth in advertising at ONDCP, you might wanna check out "Stoners in the Mist."

Location: 
United States

chicagovigil.com responds to chicagovigil.org

The DEA is at it again, as Drug WarRant blogger Peter Guither puts it, and is holding another "vigil for lost promise" for people who have died from drugs, this one in Chicago (chicagovigil.org). The problem isn't so much what the DEA says -- some people do die from drugs -- but what they don't say. Hence Guither's vigil for lost promise for people who have died from the drug war (chicagovigil.com redirecting to it). It's too simplistic to blame it all on drugs. Even when it looks like drugs (e.g. it's not someone who was imprisoned under a law or shot by a SWAT team, someone actually died from some kind of drug use), it's often the combination of drugs with the drug laws that created the most deadly mix. Guess who has the top link in Google when searching on "vigil for lost promise," at least right now when I'm posting this?
Location: 
United States

North Dakota Farmers File Lawsuit Against DEA Over Hemp Ban

This afternoon, I particpated in a tele-news conference held in Bismarck, North Dakota, to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit by two North Dakota farmers (including a Republican state representative!) against the DEA for its refusal to issue permits allowing them to grow hemp. North Dakota has passed state legislation permitting hemp growing under strict regulations, and its hemp-friendly Agriculture Commissioner, Roger Johnson, has promulgated the necessary guidelines. Johnson issued state permits to the two farmers months ago and sought DEA approval, but DEA did nothing. Now, the farmers are suing. This case could be a big one, once and for all getting the DEA out of the way of commercial hemp farming. I'll be writing about this in a feature article this week, but in the meantime, you can check out VoteHemp's North Dakota information page here for more detailed info on the case. Too bad somebody has to sue the DEA to get it to uphold the Controlled Substance Act, which specifically exempts hemp from the marijuana prohibition.
Location: 
United States

Good Supreme Court Ruling on Traffic Stops

The Supreme Court actually issued a good ruling on traffic stops today, and it was unanimous. In BRENDLIN v. CALIFORNIA, Bruce Brendlin, who was convicted of drug possession after a car in which he was a passenger was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy in Yuba County, California, appealed his conviction based on the fact that the traffic stop was later conceded by the state to be illegal. The state argued that because Brendlin was not the driver of the car, he was not the subject of the illegal stop, and so did not have the right to have the evidence suppressed because of the stop's illegality. In the unanimous opinion written by David Souter, the Court found:
Brendlin was seized because no reasonable person in his position when the car was stopped would have believed himself free to "terminate the encounter" between the police and himself. Bostick, supra, at 436. Any reasonable passenger would have understood the officers to be exercising control to the point that no one in the car was free to depart without police permission.
Sad that the California Supreme Court bought the argument, though. Read more about the case here.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Doctor or Drug Pusher?

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
New York Times Magazine
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/magazine/17pain-t.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&ref=magazine&adxnnlx=1182016857-gcS2JRBs7yjV8je/2IeroQ

Sentencing: Supreme Court to Decide Crack Sentencing Case

The US Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear the case of a Virginia man sentenced under the harsh federal crack cocaine laws. Coming after the high court has already agreed to hear two other cases related to federal sentencing, the decision will broaden its review of federal sentencing law by adding the notorious crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity to it.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/supremecourt2.jpg
US Supreme Court
Under federal law, it takes five grams of crack or 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence. Similarly, 10 grams of crack or 1,000 grams of powder cocaine merit a 10-year mandatory minimum. The 100:1 disparity in the amounts of the drug needed to trigger the mandatory minimum sentences has been the subject of numerous critics, including federal judges.

The case selected Monday was that of a Virginia man, Derrick Kimbrough, who pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing and distributing more than 50 grams of crack. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentencing range of 19 to 22 years, but Federal District Court Judge Raymond Jackson in Richmond pronounced such a sentence "ridiculous" and "clearly inappropriate," and sentenced Kimbrough to the lowest sentence he could, the mandatory minimum of 15 years.

But the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Jackson's reasoning and ordered resentencing. "A sentence that is outside the guidelines range is per se unreasonable when it is based on a disagreement with the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses," the three-judge appeals court panel said.

Other federal appeals courts disagree. Both the Third Circuit in Philadelphia and the District Colombia Circuit Court of Appeals have held that, as the Philadelphia appeals court put it, "a sentencing court errs when it believes that it has no discretion to consider the crack/powder cocaine differential incorporated in the guidelines." Both courts noted that the Supreme Court itself had made the federal sentencing guidelines advisory rather than mandatory in its 2005 ruling in Booker v. United States.

The other two federal sentencing cases the court has agreed to hear are also related to the confusion in the courts in the wake of Booker. One case, Rita v. United States, raises the question of whether a sentence within the guidelines range should be presumed reasonable. The second case, Gall v. United States, involved an Iowa college student given a sentence beneath the guidelines in an ecstasy case. The trial judge sentenced Gall to three years probation rather than three years in prison, but the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ordered resentencing, finding that such an "extraordinary" departure from the guidelines required "extraordinary" justification.

The Supreme Court will likely decide Rita in a few weeks, and will hear arguments in Gall in October. Kimbrough will carry over into the next term. But in the next few months, the Supreme Court will make decisions that will potentially affect the freedom of thousands of federal drug defendants each year.

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