In the coming weeks, state legislators will
have the opportunity to either blaze a trail toward cannabis legalization
or pass on the grassroots movement altogether. A bill authored by Rep.
Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, in support of industrial hemp production in
Minnesota is making its way through House committees.
Legislation could bring research opportunities to the University and
economic benefits for farmers who call the crop a potential cash cow, with
a number of practical uses in products like paper, plastic and
The movement has seen the strongest support in the North
Dakota Legislature, Kahn said, and has been spearheaded by a Republican
farmer who she made a point to say "couldn’t be more different from me."
"This isn’t a liberal, inner-city plot to do bad things for the state,"
Kahn said at an Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs
Committee hearing on the bill last week.
The bill would modify the
state’s definition of marijuana – distinguishing plants used in hemp and
those for drug use – and support the development and regulation of an
industrial hemp industry. But legislation signed into law by former Gov.
Jesse Ventura mandates a change in federal policy toward hemp must take
place before state laws can change. Kahn said her bill would be a step in
the right direction, and would make the state ready to move forward with
hemp production if federal policies change.
Enforcement Administration rules stand in the way of the bill coming to
fruition. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government
doesn’t distinguish between hemp and marijuana plants. Attempts to
challenge the act are nothing new, DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite said. "The
definition is very, very clear," she said. "That’s where we
The bill would define hemp as all types of cannabis with
less than .03 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the plant’s psychoactive
element. However, at an Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs
Committee hearing last week, George Weiblen, a professor of plant biology
at the University, said .03 percent THC is typical for hemp.
marijuana plant would contain 2 to 25 percent THC, Weiblen said during his
presentation at the hearing, in support of the bill’s passage. He said a
hemp industry could have a number of everyday uses. Hemp could be used as
an alternative for oil-based plastics and another source of biofuel, he
said. Weiblen also said hemp byproducts could be used to produce clothing,
because it requires less chemical input than cotton. It could also be
grown in Minnesota, unlike cotton, he said.
Since hemp research has
lacked due to legal restrictions on the plant, not much is known about
what other benefits could come from the bill’s passing, said Abel Ponce de
León, associate dean of research at the College of Food, Agricultural and
Nature Resource Sciences. "We would have never thought to use the prairie
to produce energy, and now we’re talking about that," he said. "It only
depends on the imagination."
The prospect of having a relatively
low-maintenance crop that could serve many purposes has brought support
from a number of farm groups, including the Farmers Union, but the
Department of Agriculture has yet to take a position on the issue. The
committee passed the bill last week to the public safety committee, where
it awaits further discussion.
Source: The Minnesota
Copyright: 2008, The Minnesota Daily
Website: Bill to legalize hemp production introduced – Minnesota