Pubdate: Tue, 28 Nov 2000
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2000 Belleville News-Democrat
Contact:  120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222
Fax: 618-236-9773
Author: Jayne Matthews


Anti-drug forces in Illinois say they'll continue their fight against
a proposed $1 million study of hemp -- a cousin of marijuana -- with a
new president who state Sen. Evelyn Bowles can't call one of the
``ladies from Naperville.''

``My back is up a little bit when I'm treated like a little lady in
the kitchen who should go home,'' said Priss Parmenter of Mt. Carmel,
the new president of Illinois Drug Education Alliance who lives on a
large livestock farm and also works as director of an eight-county
regional drug counseling program in southeastern Illinois.

The two presidents before Parmenter live in Naperville, an affluent
Chicago suburb. Parmenter was elected Nov. 20, a week after Bowles'
public ``ladies from Naperville'' remark.

But Bowles said Monday the name-calling started with

``They have made, I think, some very scurrilous accusations against
the supporters (of state-funded hemp research). In essence, they're
calling the supporters a bunch of druggies who support the growing of
marijuana,'' said Bowles, an Edwardsville Democrat.

Bowles and other Illinois supporters want research into hemp growing
because its stalks are the source of many products, ranging from rope,
shampoo and clothing to car and home building materials. Hemp-based
products now are imported into the U.S. from 37 countries, including

A bill has been moving through the Illinois Legislature that would
provide $1 million for a two-year feasibility study of hemp growing by
agriculture departments at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
and the University of Illinois in Champaign. It has passed the state
Senate and has passed two of three required votes in the House of
Representatives. ``The Naperville ladies have worked very, very
diligently against the bill,'' Bowles said. ``Let's find out (about
the feasibility of growing hemp). Let's not remain ignorant and

The bill has also been opposed by Illinois State Police, Illinois
Principals Association and Illinois Church Action on Alcohol Problems,
Parmenter said.

Hemp contains a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical
that produces the ``high'' from marijuana smoking.

``You could smoke (a stalk of hemp) as long as a telephone pole and
all you'd get is a headache,'' Bowles said. Parmenter said even a
little THC is too much in a drug-saturated society, and IDEA has
called legal hemp growing a calculated stepping stone to legal marijuana.

``If there is even a suggestion this could be detrimental to children,
why are we doing it?'' Parmenter said. ``We don't need another thing
to be battling.''

A marijuana researcher at SIUC said she agrees with Bowles about the
effects of smoking hemp. ``You'd get sick,'' said research professor
Laura Murphy. ``There are negligible amounts of THC in hemp. They are
considerably smaller compared to marijuana.''

Murphy said there are several types of cannabinoids and that hemp
contains some that counteract THC and make it less potent.

Parmenter said there already is ample information that hemp farming,
which requires special equipment, would not be profitable in the U.S.
She said research money would be better spent on already-successful
crops, like corn and soybeans, and on livestock farming.

The federal classification of hemp as a drug led in August to a Drug
Enforcement Agency raid on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in
Nebraska, where the Oglala Sioux were growing hemp for house-building.
Illinois classifies hemp, which grows wild in the state, a ``noxious

Only Hawaii now has a federal permit to grow hemp for research.
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