HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Iowa Legislators Consider Legalizing Hemp
Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jan 2001
Source: Iowa State Daily (IA)
Copyright: 2001, Iowa State Daily
Author: Wendy Weiskircher
Bookmark: (hemp)


AMES, Iowa -- State legislators are working to legalize industrial hemp as 
another cash crop in Iowa's agricultural economy, but opponents said the 
proposal is too risky due to ties with hemp's hallucinogenic cousin -- 

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the bill on a voice vote Tuesday to 
legalize the plant, which can be used for building materials, twine, 
textiles and fiber, said Sen. Mark Zieman, R-Postville.

"The benefit that I'm looking at in (hemp) is an alternative cash crop that 
we, as Iowa farmers, may be able to develop in the future," said Zieman, 
one of the bill's sponsors. "We just want to take a look at it and see if 
it's something we would want to pursue."

Zieman, a full-time farmer in Northeast Iowa, said hemp is used in more 
than 25,000 products being shipped to the United States from other 
countries, such as Canada. He said hemp is used in the cosmetic and 
automobile industries, and may be developed as a fuel source.

"That might be the big unknown, the one we need to take a look at," he said.

On the 15-member agriculture committee, only two senators voted against the 
bill. Sen. Sandy Greiner, R-Keota, and Sen. Ken Veenstra, R-Orange City, 
opposed the bill, based on the risk involved in legalizing the plant.

However, Zieman said comparing hemp and marijuana is like "comparing sweet 
corn and popcorn."

The level of hallucinogenic substance, THC, is between 7 percent and 20 
percent in marijuana, Zieman said. Hemp, he said, has less than 1 percent THC.

"There's really no risk, although there is a perceived risk," he said. "As 
far as a hallucinate, it just isn't going to happen. But we're having some 
problems convincing people."

Becky Terrill, former president of the National Organization for the Reform 
of Marijuana Laws, said even people who have no experience with the plants 
could tell the difference in appearance between marijuana and hemp, and 
there is no way hemp could be used as a drug.

"You couldn't even really smoke enough of it to get high," said Terrill, 
junior in genetics. "You'd just get more of a headache."

Environmentalists also support the legalization of hemp as an ecologically 
friendly plant.

"I know that hemp is extremely efficient as a crop," said Angela 
Sokolowski, member of the Student Environmental Council. "It takes one 
growing season, and it has tons of uses and it is a lot more sustainable 
than wood products. It has a high-quality fiber similar to wood fiber that 
takes decades to grow. It's fabulous that they have it in the Senate now."

Hemp has been grown in the United States since colonial days, but use 
skyrocketed during World War II, when Germany blocked the imports of fiber 
in the country through submarine warfare, said Russ Mullen, professor of 

"They used hemp as a potential source of fiber for paper making and 
cardboard making before they knew about ... the smoking properties," he 
said. "It grows well in this climate, and it's kind of a renewable source 
that has a quicker turnaround than trees."

Mullen said opposition to the legalization may be slow to adopt a different 

"I think its biggest problem is that is has a connotation of being a drug 
crop," he said. "It could create a headache for law enforcement. There 
would be some building challenges to get it accepted."

Zieman said growing hemp is legal in several surrounding states that have 
passed bills to provide funding for research on the plant. Hawaii has had a 
federal license to maintain test plots for two years, he said.

"I think, if we did this now, we would be on the cutting edge," Zieman said.

He also said the legalization would be state-regulated, and permits would 
be limited for the first few years.

"This isn't going to be a broad spectrum right off the bat," he said. 
"We're not even to the crawling stage yet ... but I think we need to give 
ourselves the opportunity to look at it."

Zieman inherited the hemp project from his father, former Sen. Lyle Zieman, 
R-Postville, who worked on legalizing the plant during his four-year tenure 
in the Senate. If the bill is approved by the state legislature and a 
federal permit is obtained, it would be a first for the Midwest, he said.

"As an agricultural state, I think it would be great for us to lead in 
legalizing industrial hemp," said Sokolowski, senior in animal ecology.

Terrill said the legalization of hemp would not only boost the farming 
industry, but it could be a first step toward greater acceptance for the plant.

"America is the biggest user of hemp, yet we don't grow it here," she said. 
"This would definitely benefit the economy."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens