Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jul 2013
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Lisa Rathke, Associated Press
Page: 6


WAITSFIELD, Vt. (AP)- Some Vermont farmers want to plant hemp now that
the state has a law setting up rules to grow the plant, a cousin of
marijuana that's more suitable for making sandals than getting high.

But federal law forbids growing hemp without a permit, so farmers
could be risking the farm if they decide to grow the plant that the
Drug Enforcement Agency basically considers marijuana.

Hemp and marijuana share the same species - cannabis sativa - but hemp
has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound in
marijuana. Under federal law, all cannabis plants are marijuana,
regardless of THC content.

To grow marijuana for industrial purposes or research, a grower must
register with the DEA and meet security requirements, such as
installing costly fencing for a field of hemp.

A national nonprofit group is pushing to change current law and move
regulation of hemp farming from the DEA to the state. In the meantime,
the group, Vote Hemp, does not recommend growing hemp while state and
federal laws conflict.

"It's literally betting the farm," said Tom Murphy, national outreach
coordinator for the group. Farmers who grow it, or even conspire to
grow it and import the seeds face jail time and the forfeiture of
their land, he said. But it's unclear how seriously the DEA will
enforce the law.

Murphy said he's heard that people have planted hemp on leased land in

"Now, if somebody chooses to do it as civil disobedience, knowing full
well what's going to happen, then that's on them," he said.

So far, 19 states have passed hemp legislation, including nine that
allow its production. Eight states have passed bills calling for the
study of hemp, while three states passed bills setting up commissions
or authorizing the study of it, according to Vote Hemp.

The states hope to nudge the federal government to change its

John Vitko would like to grow hemp on his Vermont farm to use as feed
for his chickens now that Vermont has passed a law setting up rules to
grow it. He doesn't know where to find any seed and knows he would be
breaking federal law if he finds some and grows a small amount of the

With the cost of feed continually rising, he said hemp provides an
economical way to feed and provide bedding for his 100 birds, whose
eggs are used in the custard-based ice cream he sells to restaurants
and in a dessert shop in Waitsfield.

"It's one of the few things that are manageable for a small farmer to
handle," he said of hemp, which doesn't require large equipment to
plant and harvest like corn does.

"It's complete protein," he said. "It's a seed which birds

Hemp has been grown in the U.S. in the past to make rope, fabric and
even the paper that was used to draft the Declaration of Independence.
The country launched a "Hemp for Victory" campaign during World War II
as supplies for other overseas fibers dwindled.

Now, most hemp products in the U.S. are imported from Canada, China
and Europe, and some farmers think the U.S. is missing out on a
lucrative crop.

The bill that Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law
last month is intended to push the federal government to change its
law after Canada reintroduced industrial hemp in the late 1990s.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt