Pubdate: Sat, 31 Mar 2007
Source: Bismarck Tribune (ND)
Copyright: 2007 The Bismarck Tribune
Author: Blake Nicholson, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Hemp)


The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has told North Dakota 
officials it is "unrealistic" for them to expect the DEA to approve 
industrial hemp production by Sunday.

State Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson sums up the DEA response 
in two words: permission denied.

Farmers Dave Monson and Wayne Hauge in February were issued the 
nation's first licenses to grow industrial hemp, a cousin of 
marijuana that falls under federal anti-drug rules even though it 
does not produce a high. The state licenses are worthless without DEA 

Hauge has said his crop must be in the ground by mid-May, and he 
needs time to acquire seed and prepare the land.

Johnson hand-delivered to the DEA federal applications on Feb. 13 
from Monson, a state lawmaker who farms near Osnabrock, and Hauge, a 
farmer from Ray, along with the farmers' nonrefundable $2,293 annual 
federal registration fees. He asked for a decision by April 1.

"If the applicants cannot have a decision in time to plant the crop, 
then the applications are meaningless," Johnson said in a statement Friday.

Joseph Rannazzisi, a deputy assistant administrator at DEA, told 
Johnson in a letter this week that "it would be unrealistic (and 
unprecedented) to expect DEA to make a final decision on any 
application to manufacture any controlled substance within the 
timeframe you suggest - approximately seven weeks."

Rannazzisi said the approval process includes, among other steps, a 
60-day comment period, a background check of the applicant and a farm 

"The time frame is even more infeasible where the agency is being 
asked to evaluate two separate applications, both of which seek to 
grow marijuana on a larger scale than any DEA registrant has ever 
been authorized to undertake," Rannazzisi said.

Monson had planned to seed 10 acres of industrial hemp; Hauge 100 acres.

Johnson has repeatedly said he is upset that DEA refers to industrial 
hemp as marijuana. He said Friday that the federal agency should 
focus on serious drug issues such as methamphetamine rather than 
"continuing to prevent farmers from growing a legitimate crop."

Hemp can be used to make everything from paper to lotion.

"Every other industrialized country in the world allows production of 
industrialized hemp," Johnson said. "It's really time DEA let the 
United States catch up."

The North Dakota Agriculture Department approved rules for commercial 
hemp farming licenses late last year. The DEA soon after rejected a 
request from Johnson that the federal registration requirement for 
industrial hemp cultivation be waived.

Rannazzisi said earlier this year that federal law does not allow the 
agency to delegate its ability to regulate hemp to state officials. 
DEA may waive registration requirements for controlled substances, 
but it has done so only for law enforcement officers and other officials.

The North Dakota Agriculture Department has received five hemp 
license applications, including Monson's and Hauge's. The cost of the 
state license depends on acreage but is a minimum of $202.

Department spokeswoman Patrice Lahlum said one of the pending 
applications is ready for approval, but the farmer will be given a 
chance to withdraw it, as will the other applicants.

"If producers wish to move forward with state license applications, 
we will accommodate them," Johnson said. "I want them to know, 
however, that it is virtually certain DEA will not allow the planting 
of industrial hemp in 2007." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake