(press release from Vote Hemp)
Canadian Govt. Can Tell Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana, Why Can't the US?
WASHINGTON, DC -- On January 28, 2007 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune story "Industrial hemp producer? Plan raises feds' suspicions," Tom Riley of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was quoted as saying:
"You have legitimate farmers who want to experiment with a new crop," Riley said. "But you have another group, very enthusiastic, who want to allow cultivation of hemp because they believe it will lead to a de facto legalization of marijuana." Mr. Riley continued with "The last thing law enforcement people need is for the cultivation of marijuana-looking plants to spread. Are we going to ask them to go through row by row, field by field, to distinguish between legal hemp and marijuana?"
"The ONDCP is wrong in its characterization of industrial hemp advocates, and there is no evidence that farmers who grow industrial hemp are hiding marijuana plants in their fields, whether in Canada or anywhere else," says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. "Because cross pollination of low THC industrial hemp and high THC marijuana is inevitable illicit marijuana growers avoid industrial hemp fields to protect the potency of their drug crop. It's simply illogical that a farmer's industrial hemp fields are ideal places to hide marijuana plants with all the extra scrutiny that comes with growing the crop. It's sad that, instead of a real policy debate on the issue of farming industrial hemp in the United States based on legislative intent and agronomic facts, the ONDCP and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) resort to false hyperbole and character assassination," says Steenstra. "Tom Riley is welcome to join me in Canada this summer for the Hemp Industries Association annual meeting and see for himself how our neighbors in the north can easily tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana crops."
Hemp farming in Canada is well regulated ensuring that only legitimate farmers are licensed and that they only grow government approved low-THC hemp. Requirements include applicant background checks, GPS coordinates of hemp fields, the use of approved low-THC seeds purchased from authorized seed vendors, and random inspections and testing. This licensing scheme ensures that farmers are only growing non-drug industrial hemp and not marijuana. Even though law enforcement is able to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana, the licensing process eliminates the need for them to visually distinguish between industrial hemp and its drug psychoactive cousin.
The lies about industrial hemp are prevalent in the public policy of the DEA as well. Steve Robertson, a DEA special agent in Washington, has also weighed in on the North Dakota debate with similar statements:
"The DEA does not have the authority to change existing federal law," Robertson said. "It's very simple for us: The law is there and we enforce the law," he said Wednesday. "We are law enforcement, not lawmakers."
-- "State's first hemp farming rules aimed at clearing federal hurdle," Grand Forks Herald, May 3, 2006
"It's interesting that Special Agent Robertson pretends that the DEA is purely a law enforcement entity, as they are not," says Tom Murphy, National Outreach Coordinator for Vote Hemp. "Like many Federal agencies, the DEA has been granted broad authority by Congress to interpret the statutes in the United States Code, such as the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This includes re-scheduling substances and promulgating detailed rules and regulations. The DEA could easily negotiate industrial hemp farming rules with North Dakota under the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 USC 563. It is obvious that the current rules are not set up for farmers to grow an agricultural crop that has no potential for use as a drug" says Mr. Murphy. "Instead the DEA chooses to interfere in the legislative process by confusing legislators, reporters and the public with needless and misleading rhetoric."
Industrial hemp plants have long and strong stalks, have few branches, have been bred for maximum production of fiber and/or seed, and grow up to 16 feet in height. They are planted in high densities of 100 to 300 plants per square yard. On the other hand, drug varieties of Cannabis are shorter, are not allowed to go to seed, and have been bred to maximize branching and thus leaves and flowers. They are planted much less densely to promote bushiness. The drug and non-drug varieties are harvested at different times, and planting densities look very different from the air.
The last commercial hemp crops in the United States were grown in central Wisconsin in 1957, and these crops were purchased and processed by the Rens Hemp Company in Brandon, about 40 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The primary reason industrial hemp has not been grown in the US since then is because of its misclassification as a Schedule I drug in the CSA of 1970. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 had provisions for farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp by paying an annual occupational tax of $1.00. The exemption for hemp products was contained in the definition of marihuana in the Act:
"The term 'marihuana' means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L. ... but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination."
The language of the exemption was carried over almost verbatim to the definition of marihuana in the CSA [21 USC. §802(16)] which superseded the 1937 Tax Act, but since there was no active hemp industry at the time the provisions for hemp farming were not included in the new Act.
There is also an exemption for hemp farming in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. Article 28 states that:
"2. This Convention shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes."
Laws allowing the farming of industrial hemp would not be in conflict with the Single Convention which the US is a signatory.
Seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have now changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes. All require a license from the DEA to grow the crop. Only Hawaii has grown hemp in recent years, but its research program ended when the DEA refused to renew the license. California's AB1147 addressed the DEA's bad faith interference by providing that the federal government has no basis or right to interfere with hemp grown in California pursuant to AB1147.