Pubdate: Sun, 25 Apr 1999
Source: Source Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 1999 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Contact:  PO Box 59038, Knoxville, TN 37950-9038
Author: Stan DeLozier, Business Writer

Most Nations Permit Growing of Industrial Hemp

The United States may be a world leader in some fields, but when it
comes to recognizing the value of industrial hemp, the country is way
behind, according to a Wisconsin agricultural economist.

"Who are we kidding?" asked Erwin (Bud) Sholts. "Industrial hemp is
grown in Canada, Germany, England all over the place. Why is it
illegal here?"

Sholts is director of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and
chairman of the North American Industrial Hemp Council.

"The United States is an island of denial in a sea of acceptance,"
Sholts said.

Industrial hemp, which was grown in the United States until 1937, was
outlawed by federal law at the behest of law enforcement officers who
claimed they couldn't tell the difference between industrial hemp and

Supporters of legalized hemp concede the leaves look the same, and
both plants are classified by botanists as Cannabis sativa L. However,
they say the methods of cultivating marijuana and industrial hemp are
so different anyone can tell the difference.

"Industrial hemp seed is planted with a grain drill about six inches
apart so as to produce a lot of stalk," Sholts said. "Pot is planted 2
and 21/2 feet apart to produce a low bushy plant with leaves and buds."

In addition, he pointed out that farmers raising hemp would be
planting acres clearly open to view, but marijuana growers would be
planting in small, hidden plots.

Sholts said Tennessee and Kentucky farmers could benefit from crops of
industrial hemp since producers of certified seed were located in both
states prior to 1937.

"You can make a profit of from $200 to $600 an acre on hemp, depending
on what the use is," Sholts said. "If you are producing certified
seed, as Tennessee farmers probably would, it would be $600."

He said hemp would not replace burley tobacco, a mainstay for East
Tennessee farmers, but it could provide a supplemental income.

Additionally, he said industrial hemp actually would be an aide to law
enforcement trying to eliminate marijuana.

"If you plant industrial hemp too close to marijuana, it will cross
pollinate and ruin the marijuana crop," he said. "It's actually a
marijuana fighter. The cross pollination leads to a lower THC."

THC, tetrahydrocannibinol, is the chemical that gives marijuana users
a high.

Sholts said hemp is useful in producing a variety of products ranging
from bath accessories to construction materials.

"It is very strong," he said. "In the 1930s, Henry Ford made a car out
of hemp and compressed soybean hulls. Then he took a sledgehammer to
it and a regular car. The hemp car stood-up a lot better than the
sheet metal."

According to Pete Nelson of the Memphis farm-based company Agronomy
Technology Communications, Ford Motor Co. has come full circle. He
said Ford began in 1997 using hemp in its foreign transport vans. He
said Boeing Co. used industrial hemp in manufacturing aircraft.

Strictly speaking, Sholts said there is a system that presumably
allows the production of industrial hemp. However, the hemp grower
must meet Drug Enforcement Administration guidelines, including that
the crop be grown inside a 10-foot high chain-link fence topped by
three stands of barbed wire, that it be lighted at night and that it
be under 24-hour armed guard.

"A wealthy guy in California met all the requirements and the DEA
still wouldn't give him a permit," Sholts said.
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