Hemp Reform Efforts Underway 3/5/99

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Marc Brandl, [email protected]
Hemp reform efforts are off to a vigorous start in 1999. 12 state legislatures have started off the new legislative session with various bills and resolutions that would reclassify hemp, urge the federal government to reconsider hemp and encouraging more research and test plots. Two states have recently passed resolutions that were signed.

In Virginia, House bill HJ-94 passed the state Senate 40-0, in mid-February after it had earlier passed the House by a 76-23 margin. The bill will be sent to several relevant federal agencies including ONDCP, the DEA and the Secretary of Agriculture and urges them, "To revise the necessary regulations so as to permit the controlled, experimental cultivation of industrial hemp in Virginia." The bill also gives the Commonwealth of Virginia the option of becoming a member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council (NAIHC).

"I think its fine," said a confident Erwin Sholts, the chairman of the NAIHC, "a lot of state farm bureaus, Fortune 500 companies, and universities are members because we are being driven by agriculture, and not anything else. This [agriculture] industry is in very bad trouble. I get calls from farmers all over saying they need alternative crops. The English, German and Canadian parliaments have debated this and found this is not a drug crop. When you get past emotion and into the facts, these bills pass easily. I can understand why Virginia would pass this bill."

A primary sponsor of the bill in the Virginia state assembly, Del. Mitchell Van Yahres (D) mirrored much of the sentiment of Sholts when he talked to the WOL and voiced his frustration with the federal governments position. "The present conditions are totally out of place. They are being totally unrealistic. Government encouraged farmers to grow this during World War II because it was a valuable crop. The only reason it has negatives is the word 'hemp' is involved. This is not a drug issue."

A similar bill in the Montana legislature also was passed into law recently by a vote of 95-4. H.R. 2 calls on the federal government to, "Repeal restrictions on the production of industrial hemp as an agricultural and industrial product." The primary sponsor of this resolution Rep. Joan Hurdle was not available for comment as of press time but stated in an e-mail message announcing the passage, "Now all the farmers in Montana are asking about growing it and want to start this spring!"

In other news, a civil lawsuit seeking to allow Kentucky farmers to grow hemp was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester. Andy Graves, a plaintiff in the case and a member of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association told local newspapers that he was not surprised with the ruling and the case will be appealed.

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Issue #81, 3/5/99 Announcements | HEA Reform Campaign Gains Momentum -- DRCNet Attacked by Republican Rep. Souder | Hundreds Rally Against Rockefeller Drug Laws | Amnesty International Charges that Women Behind Bars Suffer "Rough Justice" | Drug Policy Coalition Calls for Reversal of Budget Priorities | Federal Bill Reintroduced to Legalize Medical Marijuana | Canada's House of Commons Debates Medical Marijuana | Australian Prime Minister Criticized Over FBI Invitation | Sen. Hatch Advocates for Expansion of Maintenance Therapies for Opiate Dependency | Hemp Reform Efforts Underway | Editorial: Million Man Madness
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