Pubdate: Sat, 16 May 1998
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) 
Author: Janet Patton, Business Writer


With the filing of a federal lawsuit yesterday demanding the right to grow
hemp, a group of Kentucky farmers and hemp activists made it clear that they
are setting their sights high, but only on money.

"Hemp was never meant to be interdicted by the government. The DEA took that
authority on its own," said Michael Kennedy, a New York attorney brought in
to give some muscle to the suit against the Drug Enforcement Administration
and Janet Reno.

Among Kennedy's other clients: Ivana Trump, Susan McDougal and John Gotti.

The hemp fight certainly seems to be getting a higher national profile. CBS
plans to air a two-minute piece on hemp, featuring farmer Andy Graves, that
is pegged to the suit.

“Kentucky Hemp Growers are doing this on behalf of an old industry that's
going to be recreated," said Graves, who is president of the hemp growers'
co-op, as well as Kentucky Farm Bureau. "Tobacco may or may not be here 10
years from now. We're going to make hemp a part of the economy in this state

Graves would use hemp to supplement the tobacco, corn, soybeans and cattle
he raises on his 50-acre farm outside Avon.

He'd like to be able to grow his first crop -- "I'd start out with a
moderate amount, 20 to 50 acres" -- in two to five years, but realizes that
the suit could drag out for much longer while the plaintiffs fight the
marijuana stigma.

In addition to the court fight, the North American Industrial Hemp Council
is lobbying to change DEA policy -- so that hemp with less than 1 percent
THC (the drug in marijuana) would be an agriculture crop. This could become
law immediately with an executive order signed by President Clinton.

To counter questions about how law enforcement officials could tell hemp
from marijuana, Graves said hemp is cultivated differently. "The Canadians
have been doing it for five years. Canadian DEA says it's two separate crops
and that it's detectable," Graves said. "We're smart enough to do this."

Canada, which started with test plots, will have its first full-scale legal
hemp harvest this year for sale on the world market along with hemp from
France, England, Germany and Eastern Europe.

"This will not replace tobacco," Graves said. "But it might be one of three
or four crops put together that might equal tobacco. Hemp and tobacco can be
companion crops."

John Howell of the Hemp Company of American, which has hemp-product stores
and a magazine, Hemp Times, joined Graves, Kennedy and Burl McCoy, the
plaintiffs' Ashland attorney, in Lexington to publicize the message that
there is a market.

"I'm the answer to a farmer's dream. You grow it and I will buy it," Howell
said. "Manufacturers identify hemp as quality goods. They'll pay more, but
we don't want them to pay too much more. We want to get the government out
of the way between us and money."

Graves and Craig Lee, executive director of Kentucky Industrial Hemp
Association, said that Kentucky Hemp Growers last month signed a contingency
contract with Mike Hart of Lexington Brewing Co., the company that makes
Kentucky Hemp Beer. Hart said he could save at least 30 percent by buying
domestic instead of from Hungary and Romania.

“If we ever get to grow it, they'll buy it," Graves said. "That's a
contract. That's a market."

But how much of one, and is it one Kentucky farmers can tap into?

A study due to be released next week by the University of Kentucky Center
for Business and Economic Research will try to answer that question.

"That's the big issue in all this -- can hemp be widely and commercially
successful instead of just a niche product?" said Steve Allen, an associate
researcher who traveled to, among other places, England, where he found
horse bedding made of hemp.

The $25,000 study, which may be more positive in its assessment than
previous UK research, looked at whether Kentucky farmers who replace other
crops with hemp can come out ahead.

"If Kentucky were to start growing hemp, could farmers make a profit and how
much could they expect to grow?" said Mark Berger, the center's director.

To assess this, they looked at the market for seeds, paper and hemp "plastic."

If Kentucky farmers ever do produce hemp, they might not have to travel far
to market it. Graves knows of one Canadian hemp grower and marketer who has
made auto interior demo parts -- for his Kentucky-made Corvettes.


* For information on how Kentucky farmers can join the lawsuit, check out
( and for more on industrial hemp contact

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