Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jun 1999
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 1999 Lexington Herald-Leader
Contact:  606-255-7236
Author: Janet Patton, Lexington Herald-Leader


Jun. 5--Bluegrass farmers' dream of growing U.S. hemp finally might be
coming true, but not in Kentucky.

North Dakota, spurred by the first-year profits of neighboring Canadian
farmers, legalized industrial hemp production in April.

But Hawaii will probably get it into the ground faster. On July 7, Gov.
Benjamin Cayetano will sign a bill authorizing 10 acres of variety trials.

"We're hoping to put seed in the ground in September," said Hawaii state
Rep. Cynthia Thielen. "I think it's quite embarrassing that Kentucky's so
far behind in this. I Kentucky can watch our dust."

At least 12 other states, including Tennessee, have passed or are
considering pro-hemp legislation.

Ironically, this has happened in no small part because of the work of
Kentucky hemp activists, whose efforts to get legal permission to grow the
crop have made little progress in their own state.

"I cannot understand why a state with your history in hemp won't consider
this crop," Thielen said. Hawaii is looking to replace idle sugar
plantations with hemp fields that could eventually fuel an ethanol plant.

Through some high-profile legal wrangling, sometimes involving actor Woody
Harrelson, and constant Internet efforts, the Kentucky Hemp Growers
Cooperative Association has begun to make a name for itself nationally and
at home.

It is a measure of the group's efforts that yesterday the Woodford County
Chamber of Commerce, with Mayor Fred Siegelman's blessing, sponsored the
ribbon-cutting at the new Kentucky Hemp Museum in Versailles.

Lexington Mayor Pam Miller will give the opening address at the co-op's
annual meeting this month in Fayette County, said Joe Hickey, the
association's executive director.

Hickey and association President Andy Graves have testified before state
legislatures in Oregon and Missouri. Winchester farmer Gale Glenn sits on
the North American Industrial Hemp Council board.

Glenn has been very vocal about advocates of legalizing marijuana who try to
hitch onto hemp's bandwagon.

"They are our worst enemies," Glenn has been quoted as saying. "If marijuana
didn't exist, hemp would be growing here on hundreds of thousands of acres."

Hemp advocates strive to put as much distance between hemp and marijuana as

"There's not a tie-dyed T-shirt in the group," said James Woolsey, the
former CIA director who now lobbies for the hemp council. He blames the lack
of action in most states on "inertia and public relations."

That is what the Kentucky activists have worked hard to change, and they
have found many receptive to their message. But at home, the hemp movement
has been slow to grow.

"I don't know of any legislator yet who's said they were willing to put
forth a bill," said Rep. Joe Barrows, D-Versailles. "I think it would be
appropriate for us to do a little research ourselves, a controlled
experimental effort."

Of Thielen's criticism, he said, "We're not any different than most places.
The first reaction is the  understandable confusion between hemp and
marijuana. I don't think we've gotten entirely past that point. There's
still a real reluctance in law enforcement."

The problem for all states has always been the Drug Enforcement
Administration. The DEA reading of the law is that hemp is marijuana and
therefore is illegal to grow because it contains THC, the drug that produces
marijuana's high, said Bud Scholtz, hemp council chairman.

But a recent letter to Thielen from a DEA administrator appears to soften
that position.

"The DEA is currently reviewing the security regulations I as part of the
review, DEA will consider setting the level of THC content for I hemp that
may be grown for industrial purposes," wrote Gregory Williams, chief of DEA
operations on April 23.

"This review is based on the premise that public and commercial interest may
be better served if the cultivation of Cannabis sativa L., hemp is
authorized by the appropriate Federal and State entities."

Discussions, which have included DEA drug czar Barry McCaffrey, are
apparently at a delicate stage. "We're making good progress," Scholtz said.
"We had talks with General McCaffrey recently, but I don't want to make a
comment on that right now."

The review is still in progress, DEA spokeswoman Rogene Wade confirmed
yesterday. "The DEA is reviewing the security issue that would be associated
with the manufacture (of hemp)," she said. The agency is looking at the
types of data that would be required for licensure, she said.

It is not actually illegal to grow hemp (or marijuana, for that matter); you
just need a federal license to do it. But, say hemp activists, you can't get
a license.

That's what states ready to grow hemp hope will change soon.

The fight in other states has not been easy. In Hawaii, Thielen said, the
police lobby tried to kill the bill. "Practically all of the legislators
were not aware of the distinction between the plants," she said.

In Oregon, pro-hemp legislation was killed out of "ignorance," said state
Rep. Floyd Prozanski. In Oregon, hemp could become a renewable source of
paper pulp. "In some states, they know it's rope, not dope. Other states are
pigeonholed. The DEA's going to have to come around."

There are further signs that may be happening.

The DEA stopped arguing that hemp cannot be distinguished in the field from
marijuana. "That's been pretty much shot down," Scholtz said.

It's grown in 33 countries, including Canada, largely without law
enforcement difficulties, he said.

Manufacturers have found plenty of uses for hemp -- the Kentucky Hemp Museum
displays dozens of modern products ranging from feed to clothing to
fiberboard to lip balm.

"You can eat it, wear it and live in it," said Jake Graves, the Fayette
County farmer and chairman of the Kentucky Hemp Museum board.

Whether there would be any money in it is something economists do not agree on.

One University of Kentucky study found there would be little market for a
Kentucky-grown product in a market flooded with cheap, foreign hemp. But
another UK study last year estimated Kentucky farmers could make up to $600
an acre.

Canadian farmers are clearing $300 an acre in profit, said North Dakota Rep.
David Monson, who sponsored that state's bill.

Monson pointed out that until the federal government lets them, North Dakota
farmers can't grow hemp either.

"I'd say there's a fairly decent possibility that it could happen next
year," Monson said. "North Dakota is behind that all the way from the
grass-roots to our governor."

Now, he said, other states need to get involved. "If every state would do
it, the federal government couldn't ignore it," he said. "Every time a state
introduces legislation, it goes a step farther."


Is there a difference between hemp and marijuana or is it all cannabis sativa?

"Yes, there's a difference," said Scott Smith, UK agriculture associate
dean, "in terms of the active ingredient, THC.

"Botanically, they're the same species of plant ... but very different

Industrial hemp contains less than 1 percent THC, while marijuana varieties
typically have 5 to 20 percent.

There are also differences in how hemp is grown and harvested. So, no matter
how much you eat or smoke hemp products, you can't get high.

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