Judge should halt DEA ban on hemp crops
A federal judge is expected to rule this month on whether to reject a lawsuit allowing the growing of industrial hemp.
Hawaii farmers who have long wanted to become part of the fledgling industrial hemp industry should look to North Dakota for leadership. Two farmers, backed by that state's agriculture commissioner, are asking a federal judge to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from stopping them from growing the distant cousin of marijuana.
Farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson, who is a state legislator, received their state licenses last year to grow hemp under rules conforming with legislation enacted in 1999. However, federal law classifies hemp as a controlled substance and the DEA has fought mightily against the cultivation of hemp under the mistaken impression that people can get high on it.
THC, the mind-altering chemical that comprises 7 percent to 20 percent of marijuana, accounts for only one-tenth of 1 percent of industrial hemp. The DEA has tried to block hemp's importation from more than 30 companies that use it in rope, clothing, cosmetics and food products, but the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the ban illegal three years ago because of hemp's harmless quality.
David P. West, a plant geneticist, experimented in hemp-growing on a quarter-acre of land near Wahiawa beginning in 1999 under a series of brief permits, but quit in frustration after the DEA refused to grant him a permanent permit. State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kailua, has championed its legalization in Hawaii.
Federal Judge Dan Hovland remarked in a hearing in Bismarck, N.D., that the best remedy might be changing federal law. If he rejects the farmers' lawsuit, U.S. policy might continue to be driven by politics instead of science.
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