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Press Release: Court Rejects North Dakota Farmers’ Bid to Grow Industrial Hemp

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2007 CONTACT: Adam Eidinger: 202-744-2671, adam@votehemp.com or Tom Murphy: 207-542-4998, tom@votehemp.com Court Rejects North Dakota Farmers’ Bid to Grow Industrial Hemp Congress Should Address this Problem, Says Judge Lawsuit Motivated DEA to Offer Hemp Research Agreement to NDSU after Eight-Year Wait BISMARCK, ND – Two North Dakota farmers, who filed a federal lawsuit in June to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) ban on commercial hemp farming in the United States, had their case dismissed by federal Judge Daniel Hovland yesterday. In a 22-page decision, Judge Hovland wrote that the problem facing state-licensed hemp farmers David Monson and Wayne Hauge needs to be addressed by Congress if they hope to ever grow the versatile crop which is used in everything from food and soap to clothing and auto parts. The decision can be read at: http://www.votehemp.com/legal_cases_ND.html. Lawyers working on behalf of the farmers are considering an appeal on a number of issues. In particular, the Court ruled that hemp and marijuana are the same, as the DEA has contended for years. However, scientific evidence clearly shows that not only is industrial hemp genetically distinct from the drug marijuana, there are also absolutely no psychoactive effects from ingesting it. “Obviously we are disappointed with the decision,” says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a grassroots group working to bring industrial hemp farming back to the U.S. “The Court’s decision shows it understands that the established and growing market for industrial hemp would be beneficial for North Dakota farmers to supply. Yet the decision overlooks Congress’s original intent – and the fact that farmers continued to grow hemp in the U.S. for twenty years after marijuana was banned. If the plaintiffs decide to appeal the case, we would wholeheartedly support that effort. We are not giving up and will take this decision to Washington, DC to prompt action by Congress on HR 1009, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007, which would clarify a state’s right to grow the crop,” adds Steenstra. In a related development, Vote Hemp has learned that the DEA has sent a “Memorandum of Agreement” to North Dakota State University (NDSU) which, if signed by the school, would clear the way for industrial hemp research there. NDSU filed an amicus brief in support of the farmers’ lawsuit which highlighted the university’s eight-year struggle to secure a license from the DEA to grow industrial hemp for research as mandated by state law. “It seems our arguments about the DEA’s delay in processing NDSU’s application have resulted in the agency finally taking positive action to allow research,” comments David Bronner, President of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a manufacturer of soap and other body care products using hemp oil imported from Canada. Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp advocacy group, and its supporters are providing financial support for the lawsuit. If it is ultimately successful, states across the nation will be free to implement their own hemp farming laws without fear of federal interference. More on the case can be found at: http://www.VoteHemp.com/legal_cases_ND.html.
Location: 
Bismarck, ND
United States

Press Release: Judge Promises Decision by End of November in North Dakota Hemp Farming Lawsuit – Monson v. DEA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 15, 2007 CONTACT: Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671, adam@votehemp.com, or Tom Murphy at 207-542-4998, tom@votehemp.com Judge Promises Decision by End of November in North Dakota Hemp Farming Lawsuit – Monson v. DEA BISMARCK, ND – Two North Dakota farmers who filed a lawsuit in June to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) ban on commercial hemp farming in the United States were in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, November 14, 2007. The farmers, State Rep. David Monson of Osnabrock and Wayne Hauge of Ray, observed the oral arguments made before Judge Daniel Hovland on their behalf by attorneys Tim Purdon and Joe Sandler. Judge Hovland stated he had read and re-read the briefs filed by both sides in the landmark case and concluded the hearing by saying, “I promise to make a decision by the end of the month,” in regards to the DEA’s motion to dismiss. In the meantime, Judge Hovland stayed the farmers motion for summary judgment as he felt the motion to dismiss should be dealt with first. “Today’s arguments revealed numerous weak points that the DEA is relying on to thwart this landmark case,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “The DEA’s assertion that the farmers didn’t have standing because they haven’t grown industrial hemp yet was rejected by Judge Hovland when he said ‘I am not convinced that the plaintiffs have to expose themselves to prosecution’ and reminded Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney Wendy Ertmer, who argued on behalf of the government, that ‘this Court has jurisdiction to make a declaratory judgment,’ which is what we are seeking,” added Steenstra. Judge Hovland expressed skepticism that the DEA would ever act on the applications, based on the fact that an application by North Dakota State University was still pending after more than eight years. Judge Hovland also indicated he thinks that the DEA has “prejudged the merits of the applications to grow hemp.” While much of the government’s dispute centered on their contention that this case is not ripe because they are still considering the farmers’ application, attorney Joe Sandler argued that the application the farmers made to the DEA is no longer really the issue. “This case is unique because North Dakota is the only state to regulate industrial hemp so only the exempted portions of plant, that is, the non-viable seed, stalk and oil, enter commerce of any kind, whether intrastate or interstate,” said Sandler. “When the North Dakota legislature changed its eight-year-old hemp law to no longer require a DEA license this past April, it made it a matter of state law that the farmer who goes through the licensing process need not involve the DEA in any way since only the exempted portions of the plant, as described in the Controlled Substances Act, would enter commerce.” Judge Hovland also asked Ms. Ertmer what the DOJ’s position is on HR 1009, the federal Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007. Ms. Ertmer said she did not know, however Vote Hemp believes that the DOJ would in fact aggressively oppose the Act if it were to be heard in Congress. A transcript of the November 14 hearing will be available in a couple weeks. If successful, the landmark lawsuit will lead to the first state–regulated commercial cultivation of industrial hemp in fifty years. Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp advocacy group, and its supporters are providing financial support for the lawsuit. If it is successful, states across the nation will be free to implement their own hemp farming laws without fear of federal interference. More on the case can be found at: http://www.VoteHemp.com/legal_cases_ND.html.
Location: 
Bismarck, ND
United States

Feature: Would-Be North Dakota Hemp Farmers Have Another Day in Court

A pair of North Dakota farmers who are suing the federal government over the DEA's failure to act on their applications to grow hemp will know by month's end if their case will continue, a federal district court judge in Bismarck said Wednesday. That comment from Judge Dan Hovland came at the end of a hearing on a motion by the government to dismiss the case.

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Wayne Hauge, David Monson, ND attorney Tim Purdon
Drug War Chronicle was there, sitting in the back of the courtroom as the farmers, the state of North Dakota, and hemp industry advocates took on a stubborn and recalcitrant DEA and its Justice Department mouthpieces. Besides the plaintiffs and lawyers for both sides, only a handful of hemp advocates and local media reporters were present.

Judge Hovland said he will rule on the motion within two weeks. He also stayed other motions before the court pending his ruling on the motion to dismiss.

Hemp products may be imported to the US, but a DEA ban on domestic production prevents US farmers from growing it, meaning domestic hemp product makers must turn to suppliers in countries where it is legal to grow, including Canada, China, and most of Europe.

Hemp is a member of the cannabis family, but unlike the marijuana consumed by recreational and medical marijuana users, contains only tiny amounts of the psychoactive substance that gets marijuana users "high." But the DEA argues that hemp is marijuana and that the Controlled Substances Act gives it authority to ban it.

The farmers and their attorneys disagree, pointing out that the CSA contains language explicitly exempting hemp fiber, seed oil, and seed incapable of germination from the definition of "marihuana" and are thus not controlled substances under that law. That same language was used to allow the legal import of hemp into the US as a result of a 2004 federal court decision siding with the hemp industry against the DEA.

The lawsuit filed by farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson (who is also a Republican state legislator) is only the latest chapter in a decade-long struggle by North Dakota farmers to grow hemp. The state first passed hemp legislation in 1997, but things really began moving when state Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, a strong hemp supporter, issued the first state permits to grow hemp to Hauge and Monson on February 6. One week later, Hauge and Monson sent a request to the DEA requesting licenses to grow their crops and noting that they needed a response by early April in order to get the crops in the ground this year.

The DEA failed to respond in a timely fashion. According to a March 27 DEA letter to Ag Commissioner Johnson, seven weeks was not enough time for the agency to arrive at a ruling on the request. That letter was the final straw for the North Dakotans, who then sued in federal court to get the DEA out of the way.

Just as the DEA appears determined to stall the hemp applications -- it has been sitting on one from North Dakota State University for eight years -- so the Justice Department seems much more interested in killing the case than arguing it. Wednesday's hearing in Bismarck saw Assistant US Attorney Wendy Ertmer try to make the case go away by arguing that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue the government because they had not been arrested or indicted and by arguing that district court was not the proper venue to hear it.

"The plaintiffs have suffered no injury," said Ertmer.

"Must they expose themselves to arrest to have standing?" asked an incredulous Judge Hovland.

"Generally, yes," Ertmer responded.

Hovland and Ertmer also tangled over the issue of jurisdiction, with Ertmer arguing that challenges to administrative rulings should be handled by federal appeals courts. Hovland seemed to differ, saying that district courts can indeed render declaratory judgements.

Judge Hovland also questioned Ertmer closely over the DEA's failure to act on either the NDSU application or Hauge and Monson's application. "There seems to be no realistic prospect that the DEA will grant the applications," he said.

"Why has it taken eight years and there is still no response to the NDSU application?" he asked. "Is exercising administrative remedies an exercise in futility? I see no prospect the plaintiffs will ever get a license," he said.

Throughout, Ertmer stuck to her guns and the government's official position that hemp is marijuana. She repeatedly referred to industrial hemp as "bulk marijuana" and derided North Dakota legislation that defines hemp as distinct from marijuana as meaningless. "It's still marijuana," she said.

Washington, DC, attorney Joe Sandler, who is representing the plaintiffs, provided a hint of arguments to come as he argued that neither the Supreme Court decision in the Raich case nor an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case banning South Dakota Lakota Indian Alex White Plume from growing hemp on the Pine Ridge reservation should be controlling in the current case.

Hovland listened attentively, but then, noting that an industrial hemp bill had been introduced in Congress, wondered if a political solution were not the most appropriate. "Isn't the best remedy to amend the definition of industrial hemp under the (federal) Controlled Substances Act?" he asked. "To me, it seems like the easiest solution."

But Hauge, Monson, and their allies in the North Dakota state government and the hemp industry aren't waiting on Congress or the DEA. "If NDSU needed eight years and nothing was resolved, I think the DEA is trying to wait us out," Monson said. "It's a de facto denial of our license and that's part of our frustration."

Hauge and Monson said hemp could be a beneficial crop for North Dakota farmers. "We can start an entire industry with fiber, oil and meal," Monson said. "There are literally thousands of uses. This could be a huge economic benefit for North Dakota."

He is already getting requests for product from people who mistakenly think he's already growing a hemp crop, he said. "At least weekly, someone is calling asking to buy fiber or seed," Monson said. "There is certainly a market, especially on the West Coast and especially in the food industry. We can benefit here in North Dakota from the fiber."

Hauge, who farms a spread near the Canadian border in the western part of the state, said hemp is a potential money-maker, especially when grown in rotation with his durum, pea, and lentil crops. "You can make a profit, it's not just an alternative," Hauge said. "This is a rotation with a profit."

Hauge was hopeful following the hearing, saying he expected a ruling in the plaintiff's favor. "I'm positive about this," Hauge said. "The judge asked good questions and it shows his insight."

If Hovland denies the government motion to dismiss, it's back to court, where the plaintiffs will seek a summary declaration in their favor. But the federal courts move slowly, and planting season is only a few months away.

Hemp On the Menu in Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck's Bistro restaurant is known for its fine, grass-fed North Dakota beef and fine wines, but the menu last night included a tasty garden salad with hemp oil dressing. Hemp isn't usually on the menu--at least so far--but the folks at the Bistro added it in honor of the plaintiffs in a case that is being heard at the federal courthouse here this morning. In a little less than an hour, North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and Roger Munson, who is also a state senator, and their attorneys, will be in federal court to argue motions in their case against the DEA for refusing to act on their applications to grow hemp. The farmers have the support of the state government, which, in the face of DEA intransigence, has acted to get the DEA out of the way, as well as the hemp industry, some of whose representatives were at the dinner table at the Bistro last night. The attorneys told me last night the most likely outcome of today's hearings is that the judge will not rule immediately, but take the motions under consideration with a ruling to come shortly. The government will ask for a dismissal, but the hemp attorneys think that's unlikely. The hearing will last until about noon, then there will be a post-hearing press availability, which I will attend before heading back to central South Dakota. Yesterday, on the way up here, my gas mileage sucked as I fought bitter winds out of the northwest. Local TV news reported gusts of 74 mph yesterday. The wind is still blowing, but at least this afternoon it'll be at my back as I scoot across the lonely prairies. Look for a feature article on the hemp hearing on Friday.
Location: 
Bismarck, ND
United States

Press Release: North Dakota Farmers in Court Nov. 14 for Oral Arguments in Hemp Lawsuit

[Courtesy of Vote Hemp] NEWS ADVISORY: November 7, 2007 CONTACT: Adam Eidinger, T: 202-744-2671, E: adam@votehemp.com or Tom Murphy T: 207-542-4998, E: tom@votehemp.com North Dakota Farmers in Court Nov. 14 for Oral Arguments in Hemp Lawsuit BISMARCK, ND – Two North Dakota farmers, who filed a lawsuit in June to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) ban on commercial hemp farming in the United States, will have their day in court on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Oral arguments begin at 10:00 am CST in the William L. Guy Federal Building, 220 E Rosser Ave Bismarck, ND and will immediately be followed by a press conference on the courthouse steps. The farmers – State Rep. David Monson of Osnabrock and Wayne Hauge of Ray – will appear in court to observe oral arguments made on their behalf by attorneys Tim Purdon and Joe Sandler. If successful, the landmark lawsuit will lead to the first state–regulated cultivation of commercial industrial hemp farming in fifty years. WHO: Rep. David Monson, North Dakota House assistant majority leader, farmer Wayne Hauge, licensed hemp farmer Tim Purdon, Vogel Law Firm, Bismarck, attorney for the plaintiffs Joe Sandler, co-counsel for plaintiffs and legal counsel for VoteHemp.com Eric Steenstra, president, VoteHemp.com WHAT: Oral Arguments Media Availability and Teleconference on New Lawsuit to Grow Hemp WHERE: William Guy Federal Building, 220 E. Rosser Ave., Bismarck, ND 58501 WHEN: Monday, November 14, 10:00 am CDT, Oral Arguments, Media Availability Afterwards The North Dakota Legislature recently removed the requirement that state-licensed industrial hemp farmers first obtain DEA permits before growing hemp. The question before the U.S. district court will be whether or not federal authorities can prosecute state-licensed farmers who grow non-drug oilseed and fiber hemp pursuant to North Dakota state law. Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp advocacy group, and it’s supporters are providing financial support for the lawsuit. If successful, states across the nation will be free to implement hemp farming laws without fear of federal interference. More on the case can be found at http://www.votehemp.com/legal_cases_ND.html.
Location: 
Bismarck, ND
United States

Feature: Supreme Court Weighs Arguments on Limits of Judicial Discretion in Sentencing

The US Supreme Court Tuesday heard oral arguments in a pair of drug cases that will help clarify how much discretion federal judges have in sentencing under federal sentencing guidelines. When rendered, the court's opinion could impact the tens of thousands of people sentenced in the federal courts each year.

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US Supreme Court
While one of the cases involves a man sentenced under the crack cocaine laws, which punish crack much more severely than powder cocaine, the court's decision will have no impact on the federal mandatory minimum sentence laws under which many drug offenders are subjected to lengthy prison sentences.

The court's taking up the two sentencing guideline cases comes as the nation's quarter-century-long experiment with mass incarceration is under increasing pressure. The federal prison population has expanded nearly ten-fold from 24,000 prisoners in 1982 to more than 200,000 this year, more than half of them drug offenders under the harsh regime of sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences.

The US Sentencing Commission is set to reduce the guidelines' crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity administratively November 1 unless Congress acts to block it, though it has not yet decided whether to make the change retroactive. While the proposed reduction is slighter than advocates have called for, if made retroactive it would help about 19,500 current prisoners, most notably those serving the longer sentences, by an average of 27 months or relief -- 1,315 current prisoners would receive sentences reductions of 49 months or more. At least three bills addressing that disparity have been filed in Congress. And just yesterday, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a member the Joint Economic Committee, held a hearing titled "Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?"

The Supreme Court threw the federal sentencing structure into a sort of judicial chaos when it ruled two years ago in Booker v. US, and a related case, US v. Fan Fan, that federal sentencing guidelines, which had for the past two decades limited judges' sentencing decisions to finding the proper box on a sentencing grid, were no longer mandatory, but only advisory. Since then, federal district and appellate courts have struggled to determine just what that means, with some judges sometimes handing out sentences below the guidelines, which have in turn sometimes been overturned on appeal.

The two cases before the court represent different aspects of the federal sentencing conundrum. In Gall v. US, Brian Gall was convicted of conspiracy to sell ecstasy in Iowa, but rather than sentence him to the 30-37 months in prison suggested by the guidelines, his sentencing judge gave him probation, noting that he had walked away from the conspiracy years earlier and led an exemplary life since. The probationary sentence was overturned by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

In Kimbrough v. US, Derrick Kimbrough was convicted of selling crack and powder cocaine in Virginia. Citing Kimbrough's military service and the controversy over the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, his trial judge sentenced him to the mandatory minimum 15 years instead of the 19-22 years suggested by the guidelines. His sentence, too, was overturned, this time by the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

In Gall, the appeals court held that such an "extraordinary" departure from the guidelines required an "extraordinary" justification. In Kimbrough, the appeals court held that judges could not reject a guidelines sentence because of their disagreement with underlying sentencing policy.

In oral arguments in the two cases Tuesday, the court displayed some of the same confusion and ambivalence its previous sentencing rulings have generated on the federal bench. The court is caught between two seemingly irreconcilable goals: to ensure similar sentences for similar offenses, and to restore a measure of discretion to judges.

"It may be quite impossible to achieve uniformity through advisory guidelines, which is why Congress made them mandatory," Justice Antonin Scalia observed. But Scalia has led the bloc of the court that has moved to undo the mandatory federal guidelines scheme.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who helped author the guidelines and remains their strongest proponent on the court, accused Kimbrough's counsel, Michael Nachmanoff, of not offering the court a way out of its dilemma after Nachmanoff insisted that Booker required that judges be granted reasonable flexibility." You're saying either we have to make it [the sentencing guidelines] unconstitutional," he said, "or you have to say anything goes."

"Your position is not anything goes," Scalia jumped in in Nachmanoff's defense. "It's anything that's reasonable goes."

That led Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to ask, "How do we define 'reasonable?'" And so the argument turned in circles.

For his part, Justice Department lawyer Michael Dreeben, who argued both cases, argued that Congress intended to punish crack cocaine more seriously than powder, and judges should heed Congress' will. "For a judge to say Congress is crazy," Dreeben said, "is a sort of textbook example of an unreasonable sentencing factor."

"The guidelines are only guidelines. They are advisory," Scalia shot back, adding that sometimes sentences were too long.

While the tenor of oral arguments suggested a favorable ruling may be coming, especially for Kimbrough, observers of the court were reluctant to speculate. But they were not reluctant to talk about what it all means.

"Everyone is struggling" with the federal sentencing conundrum, said Doug Berman, professor of law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and author of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog. "Most prominently, they are trying to figure out what to make of this opaque standard of reasonableness," he said.

"If the Supreme Court reverses the circuit courts and upholds the trial courts, emphasizing the discretion district court judges have to reduce sentences below the guidelines, that could have a significant impact, especially on first offenders and others with mitigating factors," Berman said.

"The national debate over the excessive penalties prescribed under the federal sentencing guidelines for low-level crack cocaine offenses has infiltrated Congress, the advocacy community and now the US Supreme Court," said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. "There is nearly universal agreement that current sentences for crack cocaine offenses are unfair and ineffective. The court's action will certainly influence the policy debate," he added.

"The Supreme Court's consideration of the magnitude of discretion afforded to federal sentencing judges is a step towards creating a more just sentencing system," said Mauer. "In light of recent events in Jena, Louisiana, and concerns about disparity within the justice system, a new consciousness about the unfairness and ineffectiveness of our criminal justice system has emerged," Mauer continued.

"These cases have to be considered against the backdrop of extraordinarily long terms for minor drug offenders," Berman said. "That the government can argue that sending Kimbrough to prison for 15 years is unreasonably lenient and the length of that sentence hardly gets questioned suggests that everyone has drunk the federal sentencing guideline kool-aid," he said.

For some groups with a deep interest in justice in sentencing, whatever the Supreme Court does won't be enough. "Whatever the court decides, the real solution to unjust crack sentences lies in Congress," said Mary Price, vice president and general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "Even if the court permits judges to avoid unjust crack sentences called for by the guidelines, many defendants will still be sentenced under unjust mandatory minimum statutes. Congress made a mistake by basing sentencing almost exclusively on one factor -- drug quantity. Judges should be permitted to sentence based on all facts about the defendant and the offense, not just quantity. These cases show why mandatory minimum sentencing laws are unwise, unnecessary, and unjust."

It goes even deeper than that, said Chuck Armsbury of the November Coalition, an anti-prohibitionist group that concentrates on freeing drug war prisoners. "No amount of Supreme Court tinkering with the sentencing guidelines can guarantee an end to sentencing disparities," he said. "Most of the sentencing disparity is due to rules and results of deal making by informants, police and prosecutors working together secretly. The justices are unlikely to admit they can't determine the fairness of a hidden system's operations," he argued. "To fix this broken system would mean to rein in police, prosecutors and the snitch system producing substantial differences in drug sentences."

That's not going to happen through the Supreme Court chipping at the edges of draconian sentencing, Armsbury said. "Even if they win, the cases under review this week will likely join a long line of previous Supreme Court cases that failed to correct wrongful sentencing practices or result in the release of thousands of over-incarcerated people, the great majority convicted of drug crimes."

Still, if further reform of the draconian federal sentencing laws comes out of this pair of cases, some drug defendants will get lesser sentences, and that's a good thing. But as the critics point out, it's not enough. The mass incarceration juggernaut has been speeding along for decades now, and it's going to require more than some Supreme Court decisions tinkering at the edges to achieve fundamental change.

Fairness of Crack Cocaine Sentencing Fundamental to Oct. 2 Supreme Court Case

[Courtesy of The Sentencing Project] At a time of heightened public awareness regarding excessive penalties and disparate treatment within the justice system, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument tomorrow in a case that touches on the controversial crack cocaine sentencing debate. The case, Kimbrough v. United States, explores the reasonableness of a federal district judge's below-guideline sentencing decision based on the unfairness of the 100 to 1 quantity disparity between powder and crack cocaine. The Sentencing Project submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the petitioner, Derrick Kimbrough, which argues that current drug guidelines inappropriately limit the factors that judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Kimbrough's case stems from his 2005 guilty plea in Norfolk, VA, for possession with intent to distribute 56 grams of crack cocaine and possession of a firearm. Kimbrough, a Desert Storm veteran with no previous felony convictions, was prosecuted in federal court where penalties involving crack cocaine are harsher than in state systems. As a result, instead of receiving a sentence of about 10 years under Virginia law, he faced a federal sentencing guideline range between 19 and 22 years. Federal District Judge Raymond A. Jackson, who presided over Kimbrough's case, called the recommended guideline sentence "ridiculous" and instead sentenced Kimbrough to 15 years, the minimum required by mandatory sentencing policies. Tomorrow, the Court will consider whether Judge Jackson's decision was "reasonable" according to federal sentencing standards. For more information, visit www.sentencingproject.org/crackreform or download the amicus brief at http://sentencingproject.org/Admin/Documents/publications/dp_kimbrough.pdf.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Press Release: Strong Growth of Hemp Food and Body Care Sales Continues in 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 CONTACT: Tom Murphy: T: 207-542-4998, E: tom@thehia.org or Adam Eidinger, T: 202-744-2671, E: adam@votehemp.com Strong Growth of Hemp Food and Body Care Sales Continues in 2007 U.S. Farmers Suing DEA to Grow Industrial Hemp for Expanding Market Baltimore, MD – As leading North American brands that make hemp food and body care products with hemp seed and oil exhibit at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore from September 27-29, new retail data released today proves that these brands are racking up record sales. The strong sales have occurred against the backdrop of state-licensed hemp farmers in North Dakota fighting a high stakes legal battle against the DEA to grow hemp seed for U.S. manufacturers. The new sales data lends credibility to U.S. farmers’ assertion that they are being left out of the lucrative hemp market that Canadian farmers have cashed in on for ten years. The sales data, collected by the market research firm SPINS, was obtained from natural food retailers only, excluding Whole Foods Market and mass-market food and pharmacy stores, and thus under-represents actual sales by a factor of two to three. The new report shows that hemp food sales grew in the sampled stores by 39% over the previous year (from August 2006 to August 2007), or by $2.1 million, to a total of $7.7 million. Based on the representative growth of this sample, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) Food and Oil Committee now estimates that the total retail value of hemp foods sold over the past 12 months in North America grew from $14 million last year to approximately $20 million this year. In addition, the SPINS data show that sales of hemp body care products grew 11% over the past 12 months in the sampled stores to $12 million. Due to the large hemp body care line sold by The Body Shop, as well as the fact that many unreported leading mass-market brands of sun tan lotion and sunscreen products include hemp oil, the HIA estimates the total retail value of North American hemp body care sales to be at least $50 million. “The hard work we did four years ago to preserve legal sales of hemp foods through successful litigation has paid off with steady double-digit growth year after year,” says David Bronner, Chair of the HIA Food and Oil Committee and President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. “The HIA is confident that the total North American hemp food and body care market over the last 12 months accounted for at least $65-70 million in retail sales,” adds Bronner. Over the last three years, hemp food sales have averaged 41% annual growth, making it one of the fastest-growing natural food categories. "Last fall we expected the double-digit growth of the hemp food sector to continue in 2007, especially since hemp milk would finally be available to waiting consumers," comments Eric Steenstra, HIA Executive Director. "We project that growth in the markets for hemp food and body care will keep pace into 2008,” says Steenstra. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Statistics Canada data show that the quantity of hemp seed exports increased 300% from 2006 to 2007. Hemp oil exports kept pace, with an 85% increase in quantity. Hemp fiber exports showed encouraging progress, with a 65% increase in quantity. All statistics represent growth from the period January to June in 2007 versus the same period in 2006. A summary of hemp food and body care sales data is available by visiting http://www.thehia.org/PDF/HempSPINS2007.pdf . # # # The mission of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) is to represent the interests of the hemp industry and to encourage the research and development of new hemp products. More information about hemp’s many uses and hemp legislation may be found at www.HempIndustries.org or www.VoteHemp.com. 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: 
Baltimore, MD
United States

Press Release: North Dakota Farmers File Motion for Summary Judgment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 20, 2007 CONTACT: Adam Eidinger, T: 202-744-2671, E: adam@votehemp.com or Tom Murphy, T: 207-542-4998, E: tom@votehemp.com North Dakota Farmers File Motion for Summary Judgment in Hemp Farming Case Motion Includes Response to DEA’s Motion to Dismiss BISMARCK, ND – Two North Dakota farmers, State Rep. David Monson from Osnabrock and Wayne Hauge from Ray, have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in a lawsuit filed June 18 in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota that seeks to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) obstruction of state-licensed and state-regulated commercial hemp farming in the United States. The farmers are seeking a declaration that they cannot be criminally prosecuted for growing hemp under state regulations, now in effect in North Dakota, which ensure cultivated plants have no potential drug value and are grown solely for the production of legal hemp fiber and seed commodities. The Motion and other legal documents can be viewed at http://www.votehemp.com/legal. “The DEA cannot purport to extend Congressional authority under the Commerce Clause via the Controlled Substances Act in order to interfere with North Dakota’s industrial hemp program, in which only federally-exempted, entirely legal hemp fiber and seed commodities are placed into interstate commerce,” says Tim Purdon, an attorney working on the case. “North Dakota regulations enforce conservatively strict non-psychoactive THC limits similar to Canadian regulations, which ensure there is no drug value in any part of the plant that could be diverted into the interstate market for recreational marijuana.” The farmers were issued their state licenses to grow industrial hemp from North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson in February 2007. Pursuant to North Dakota law at that time, the farmers also applied for a DEA license to grow industrial hemp. Over the next few months, however, the DEA’s delay and expressed intent to review the applications as if the farmers intended to grow an unprecedented amount of Schedule I drugs, versus cultivate a non-drug agricultural crop, fueled frustration in North Dakota’s legislature. In April, the legislature changed their law, removing the requirement for a DEA license and asserting that the state license itself was fully sufficient. An Affidavit accompanying the Motion from Professor Burton Johnson of North Dakota State University (NDSU) included a formal letter from NDSU to the DEA this summer. In the letter, NDSU relays that the public university was directed in 1998 by North Dakota state law to collect and cultivate feral, local wild hemp in order to begin breeding industrial hemp varieties that could best thrive in North Dakota’s climate and meet the requirement of 3/10 of one percent THC or less in flowering tops. NDSU filed for a license from the DEA in 1999, but to date the agency has failed to act on the application. See the letter online at http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/NDSU_Letter_7-30-2007.pdf. “The national movement supporting farmers’ right to grow hemp learned from the NDSU example that the DEA has no intention of being rational about facilitating non-drug industrial hemp research and cultivation, even when it’s by a major university,” says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. Vote Hemp’s grassroots supporters are funding this legal action to overcome the irrational hysteria and bureaucratic inertia of the DEA, and to restore industrial hemp farming to American farmers. Vote Hemp is dedicating this effort to recently-deceased Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, and Michael Sutherland, former board member of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA). Both were trail-blazing pioneers in the modern restoration and renaissance of the global hemp industry. # # # Vote Hemp is a national 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. 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

Medical Marijuana: Bryan Epis Re-Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison

Bryan Epis, the first California medical marijuana provider tried in federal court for growing marijuana, was sentenced last Friday to 10 years in federal prison -- again. Epis was convicted in 2002 of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants and served 25 months of his original 10-year sentence before being released on appeal bond.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bordenepis.jpg
David Borden and Bryan Epis at the 2005 NORML conference
The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered the lower court to reconsider Epis' conviction, but it found him guilty again.

Epis argued all along that he was a medical marijuana patient who worked with other patients within California law at a medical marijuana grow in Chico. But prosecutors portrayed him as an entrepreneurial mastermind with plans to distribute marijuana across the state.

In an unusual move, Circuit Court Judge Frank Damrell refused prosecution requests to immediately take Epis into custody, noting that the 9th Circuit had earlier ordered him released "without comment," a move Damrell described as "unprecedented in my experience. The law requires such an action be supported by exceptional circumstances, so I can only assume that they found exceptional circumstances," Damrell said. "My suspicion is the 9th Circuit would grant bail again," the judge added.

Damrell set an October 22 hearing date for a forthcoming motion for bail pending appeal.

Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland, has argued that prosecutor Samuel Wong and DEA agents intentionally misinterpreted documents seized at Epis' home when it was searched in June 1997. Wong described the documents as a statewide marketing plan, saying Epis' "goal was to go statewide and use Proposition 215 as a shield to manufacture and traffic marijuana."

Grantland told Damrell that the 9th Circuit was "very interested" in her allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and perjury by narcotics officers in the case. Damrell agreed that the appeals court "may have some interest" in the issues Grantland raised.

For his part, Epis told the court he was a martyr for medical marijuana.
"If Proposition 215 had not passed, I wouldn't be standing here today," Epis told Damrell. "I'm being prosecuted because I have a heart. I've seen too many people suffer and die from cancer and AIDS not to try to help them. I'm not ashamed of what I did, but I am sorry for my family."

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