[politics]February 28, 2008
Bill to legalize hemp production introducedThe bill would bring the hemp industry to Minnesota along
with agricultural benefits.By Jake
Grovumn 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
Passing the 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
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
Currently, Drug 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
"The definition is very, very clear," she said. "That’s where we stand."
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.
A 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 committee passed the bill last week to the public safety committee,
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