Hemp Cultivation in Kentucky?
The situation in Kentucky: For other articles see events page or answer 20.
A major effort is underway to push hemp legislation through various state governments.
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) Copyright: 2000 Lexington Herald-Leader Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 606-255-7236 Website: http://www.kentuckyconnect.com/heraldleader/ Forum: http://krwebx.infi.net/webxmulti/cgi-bin/WebX?lexingtn
REASONABLE APPROACH Legislature should resurrect hemp research bill
Kentucky lawmakers looking for constructive ways to occupy their time during the first annual General Assembly next year might want to do something for the state's farmers -- something like reviving House Bill 855.
The bill would allow state universities to conduct research into production of industrial hemp. The bill passed the House this year on a 63-31 vote, was reported out of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (albeit without a recommendation), but remained stuck in the Senate Rules Committee when the session ended.
As The New York Times noted in an editorial a couple of years ago, industrial hemp suffers unfairly -- from guilt by association. Its distant cousin is marijuana. That's pot, grass, the stuff some folks smoke illegally -- to get high.
But industrial hemp differs from marijuana in some very important ways. The stuff in marijuana that gives you that buzz -- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- is virtually non-existent in industrial hemp. Marijuana's THC content runs as high as 20 percent; industrial hemp's THC content is less than 1 percent.
Marijuana is grown for its leaves; industrial hemp is grown for the fiber of its stalk. And when the two plants are grown in close proximity, cross-pollination from the industrial hemp cuts the THC content of marijuana, making it less valuable on the illegal drug market. So, pot growers aren't going to use industrial hemp as a cover for growing their own product.
Canada, China and European nations grow industrial hemp without problems. A handful of states in this nation are experimenting with production of the crop. The American Farm Bureau supports research into the growing of hemp. So does the Kentucky Farm Bureau. Hemp's supporters also include two former governors: Republican Louie Nunn and Democrat Edward T. Breathitt.
There are good reasons that hemp, which once was a staple of Kentucky's Farm economy, is getting a new look worldwide. It's a hardy, pest- and disease-resistant source of fiber that can be used for everything from clothing to paper products to an alternative for plastic.
Yes, the growing of industrial hemp is now illegal in the United States. But someday, perhaps soon, that will change. The plant serves too many useful purposes for this ban to remain in effect indefinitely.
If Kentucky begins research on the production and marketing of hemp now, we can be ready to help farmers return to hemp-growing when the ban is lifted.
And Kentucky farmers, reeling from the rapid decline of the tobacco economy, badly need that kind of help.
Hemp can't replace tobacco. The estimated $200- to $600-per-acre return on hemp is far below the return on tobacco.
But it's considerably higher than the return farmers can get from most other crops, and it might make the difference in saving a few family farms in this state.
That's sufficient reason for the 2001 General Assembly to allow state universities to begin research into industrial hemp.
* Industrial-Hemp legislation has been drafted for the 1999 session.
Sen. Barry Metcalf
State Capital Annex
Frankfurt. KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-8100 or (800) 372-7181
Office: (606) 624-8387
Tobacco farmers, others call hemp beneficial, but DEA calls it marijuana
Farmers among those trumpeting merits of hemp
By Thomas G. Watts Staff Writer
WINCHESTER, Ky. - Andy Graves looks at the tobacco plants his family has grown for six generations and hopes for an alternative. In her tobacco fields a few miles away, Gale Glenn would like another rotation crop to help maintain the richness of her soil in the heart of Kentuckys Blue Grass country. At a time when many tobacco farmers are increasingly concerned about the future of their crop amid the growing anti-smoking sentiment, these two farmers think they may have part of the answer. They might need an act of Congress to grow it, however. Mr. Graves and Ms. Glenn are advocates of industrial hemp, a form of Cannabis sativa, or marijuana, that has been outlawed in the United States since 1937. Im not interested in giving up the tobacco unless I have to, said Ms. Glenn. What we are interested in is another cash crop. And theres a great sense of urgency among the people to provide another cash crop. Its like were on a roll now. An increasing number of people, including actor Woody Harrelson, and organizations have been pushing industrial hemp in recent years. Hemp councils and trade groups market their products, which are legal in the United States. And several states have considered legislation to permit farmers to grow it. Hemps fibers are transformed into everything from rope to paper to high-fashion clothing. Its oils are considered a superior lubricant. Other byproducts could replace petroleum as the basis for plastics, its supporters say. One industrial group says hemp product sales in the United States have grown from about $5 million in the early 1990s to about $200 million this year. Anticipated sales for the turn of the century are $600 million. A recent cover of Hemp Times magazine featured Merle Haggard plucking at his guitar and wearing a hemp shirt. People shouldnt be afraid of something as mild-mannered as hemp, he says. The primary thing that hemp isnt good for is smoking. Hemp supporters say the industrial variety contains less than 1 percent of the psychoactive drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), compared with 5 to 20 percent contained in the plants that are grown to provide the illicit high.
Nonetheless, the most serious roadblock to the legalization of hemp is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which has so far proved implacable. DEA officials said marijuana by any other name is still marijuana. It is illegal to grow the plant or possess parts that contain THC. Gwen Phillips, a spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed last week that the DEA does not differentiate between strains of the plant that produce different levels of the high-causing THC. Correct, she said. No difference. Ms. Phillips noted that a provision in federal law allows people to grow hemp for industrial purposes but only after they obtain a license from the DEA and show that its production would be in the public interest. The agencys policy statement on hemp read, however, that the DEA has not in the past granted any registrations for the cultivation of marijuana for industrial purposes. The cultivation of the marijuana plant exclusively for commercial, industrial purposes has many associated risks relating to diversion into the illicit drug traffic, the statement continued. During legislative hearings in the states where hemp legalization has been sought, the DEA and other law enforcement officials frequently have testified that it would be difficult for officers to tell the difference between industrial hemp and drug-rich marijuana. They also have accused hemp advocates of being naive or sympathetic to drug interests, and of chipping away at drug laws so that marijuana would eventually be legalized. Hemp adherents disagree. Plants grown for industrial hemp, they said, are planted within inches of one another and grow more than 10 feet tall with a small clump of leaves at the top. The valuable part of the plant is the stalk, with its long fibers, inner cellulose and other materials. Drug-laden plants are much shorter and clumped with buds that contain most of the THC. Erwin Bud Sholts, director of agricultural development and diversification for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, said authorities need to get past the paranoia and emotionalism of the drug and learn more about the differences between the Cannabis strains. Mr. Sholts, chairman of the North American Industrial Hemp Council, said that besides the heights and leaf structures, other differences exist. You even harvest it (industrial hemp) before the THC develops, before it flowers, he said. Ms. Glenn, the wife of a physician, said she was insulted that anyone would suggest that she would support the illicit drug industry - even inadvertently. Im a grandmother, she said. I dont want that stuff around the kids.
She and others in the hemp movement said they have tried to ignore the gold earring crowd that is working for the legalization of THC-laden marijuana, but they acknowledge that group often joins them at hearings and other hemp-support gatherings. Theres not much that we can do about them, Ms. Glenn said. We dont associate with them. She and Mr. Graves, the sixth generation tobacco farmer, are more interested in support from the influential American Farm Bureau and agricultural researchers, who have supported industrial hemp for its multiple uses. And, they said, environmentalists like hemp because it requires virtually no pesticides or herbicides - unlike tobacco, corn and many other crops. No one has calculated the environmental costs that it would save, said Mr. Graves, whose father grew hemp in the years before it was outlawed and again during World War II, when it was needed for the war effort. The value of the crop exceeds the problems, he said. Hemps real value has yet to be determined. But the market is growing as new uses are developed. Candy Penn, a spokeswoman for the Hemp Industries Council in California, said there were 94 business members of the council in 1994 and 188 now. The more that people understand this, she said of hemp, the more they are signing on to use it.
Not a panacea
Even if the use of industrial hemp is ultimately permitted in this country - as it has been under controlled conditions in Britain, Canada and other nations - its supporters dont see it as a panaceas for American agriculture. Tobacco farmers such as Mr. Graves see it as a good rotational crop because hemps root system helps aerate the soil and provides natural nutrients that tobacco sucks away. But he and Mr. Sholts dont expect tobacco farmers to voluntarily abandon their primary crop unless they are forced to by the government or the marketplace. Mr. Graves said he grosses about $4,000 an acre from tobacco, a crop that carries extensive costs in labor, pesticides and herbicides. At 3,000 acres, Mr. Graves operation is at the large end of the tobacco farm scale. Smaller farmers throughout the South favor tobacco because they can see a high return - often by using family labor to replace the crews that farmers such as Mr. Graves hires. By contrast, crops such as corn return about 10 percent of tobaccos value. It is unclear what hemp would bring. Those of us who are versed in the subject have never said it would rival tobacco, Mr. Graves said. But the point of it is that it doesnt take any labor. He and Mr. Sholts believe that the market for hemp will continue to expand and drive up the price. Its been 60 years since anyone looked at it technologically, Mr. Graves said. Theres no telling what it could be used for now. Who the hell knows what prices it will bring eventually?
SIDE BAR - Facts about hemp
Lawmakers Hear Hemp Arguments
By Andy Mead, Lexington, Kentucky
Staff Writer, July 10, 1997
FRANKFORT - One side called it industrial fiber hemp and said Kentucky would be foolish not to at least study whether it could help beleaguered farmers. The other side called it marijuana and claimed it would make enforcement of drug laws impossible. For the first time in modern history, a committee of the General Assembly heard testimony on hemp yesterday.
The large hearing room in the Capitol Annex was packed as the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources spent two hours getting two completely different stories. Dorothy Robinson, a farmer from Bath County, asked legislators to approve research to find out whether it could be a worthwhile crop. Your courage may determine our future, she said. Justice Secretary Dan Cherry countered that what were really talking about here today is the legalization of marijuana. Even conducting research at a university, he said, would be stepping onto a slippery slope heading toward the worst possible conclusion.
Where the anti-hemp side contended it would barely make enough money to bother with planting it, the pro side talked of preserving family farms and rejuvenating rural communities with small processing plants. Both sides agreed on one thing: No matter what the General Assembly does, it would be extremely difficult to get federal permission to grow hemp. The committee took no action, but chairman Ernie Harris, a Republican senator from Crestwood, said the subject will no doubt be considered again.
At issue is a plant similar to marijuana except that it has very little THC, the chemical that produces a high when marijuana is smoked. The THC content of marijuana can approach 20 percent. Hemps THC content is less than 1 percent. Experts say you cant possibly smoke enough to get high. Hemp advocates say it is an environmentally friendly plant with strong fibers that can be made into everything from clothing to car parts. A University of Kentucky poll last year showed wide-spread support for allowing farmers to grow hemp, and it has the backing of both the Kentucky Farm Bureau and the Community Farm Alliance. Law enforcement officials are uniformly opposed.
The proposed legalization of hemp is in my opinion nothing more than an attempt to legalize the growing of marijuana within this state, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Gary Rose said. Rose, Cherry and Greg Williams, a federal Drug Enforcement Agency official who flew in from Washington to testify, suggested that if hemp were legalized, criminals would soon be selling the leaves on the street. Cherry said they could be mixed with legitimate marijuana, the other two suggested they could produce a high when smoked. Hemp advocates said that isnt true, that low-THC seeds produce only low-THC leaves.
Hemp could hurt the illegal marijuana industry by cross-pollinating and lowering its THC. Andy Graves, a Fayette County farmer who is president of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Association, said people who were allowed to grow hemp would have to show they had no felony conviction of any type and no drug-related misdemeanor conviction. They also would have to be licensed and allow unannounced searches of their fields. Graves said 11 states are considering or will consider hemp legislation. Two - Vermont and North Dakota - already are doing research at their universities.
Sen. Barry Metcalf, R-Richmond, has proposed legislation calling for hemp research. He said he would like to see genetic research to cross hemp with kenaf, a member of the cotton family. Other legislators who expressed opinions yesterday appeared to be anti-hemp. There also was some giggling - to the dismay of hemp advocates who are trying to get past the giggle factor from people who associate hemp with its smokable cousin. Most of the giggles came when Lexington grocer Don Pratt tried to talk to the committee about marijuanas medical uses and said that some of them no doubt smoked marijuana. I did try it once, said state Rep. Donnie Newsome, D-Dema. But I didnt inhale.
Thu, 3 Jul 1997 19:41:03 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joe Hickey WdavidS100@aol.com
Subject: Harrelson Wins 2nd Court Decision
DAY FOR KENTUCKY FARMERS"
Kentucky Hemp Law Ruled Unconstitutional
Thursday, July 03, 1997
IRVINE, KY. - Circuit Court Judge William Trude upheld the previous ruling passed down in the District Court of Lee County, that Kentucky's Revised Statue 218A.010 912) was unconstitutionally defective due to its broad application and is arbitrary exercise of power by the General Assembly over the lives and property of free men.
On the steps of the courthouse, actor and environmentalist Woody Harrelson declared today as Independence Day for Kentucky's farmers. Harrelson originally tested the state law last June by planting 4 industrial hemp seeds Harrelson supporters look forward to the day when hemp returns as Kentucky's number one cash crop and believe this decision is another step towards bringing Kentucky farmers back to their original role as primary suppliers of raw materials for industrial purposes. "It is time to shift from a hydrocarbon to a carbohydrate based economy," said Harrelson.
Today's ruling upheld the District Court decision that favored Harrelson's position that there is a legal difference between * industrial hemp and marijuana.
Contact: Burl McCoy - (606) 254-6363 (attorney for Woody
Thursday, January 23, 1997
Woody Harrelson Prevails In Court Challenge
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY
23RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT
LEE DISTRICT COURT
CASE NO. 96-M-00161
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY
Today, Judge Ralph E. McClanahan handed down the following judgment, ......"After reviewing the statutes and memoranda of the parties this Court finds that the definition of marijuana contained in KRS 218A.010 (12) is constitutionally defective due to it's broad application by including non-hallucinogenic plant parts." ......... "We believe the enactment of (this statute) is an arbitrary exercise of power by the General Assembly over the lives and property of free men.".........
For comments contact: Hon. Burl McCoy (606) 254-6363 Attorney of Woody Harrelson
Andrew R. Graves, President
Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, Inc.
1st (606) 259-5766 Voice Pager
2nd (606) 321-3490 Mobil
3rd (606) 293-0579 Home
JANUARY 24, 1997 KENTUCKY RULING
"I applaud Judge McClanahan for his ruling. Hemp was once the number one cash crop in Kentucky and Kentucky was the number on hemp producer in the country. Thanks to Judge McClanahan's decision, I am confident that day will come again for Kentucky farmers. Not only is this a great day for the hemp industry and the farmers of Kentucky, but it ultimately will prove historic for the farmers, the economy and the environment of the rest of the country"
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*Industrial-Hemp has no psychoactive properties following definition of the European Economic Community (EEC); THC content is less than 0.3%. In general, low THC-seed varieties without psychoactive properties are those that have a THC content of less than 1%. (See also No-THC Hemp-seed.) THC= Delta-9 TetraHydroCannabinol.
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