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Hemp farming

Schwarzenegger vetoes Hemp Farming Act, denies California farmers economic opportunity to grow high-demand industrial crop

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: hemp farming, hemp politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger

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(NewsTarget) California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed the state's farmers to grow hemp for its oil, seed and fiber for industrial use in the production of food, paper, personal care products, car parts and building materials.

AB1147 -- co-authored by Assemblymen Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Chuck Devore, R-Irvine -- sought to allow California to join the 30 other countries that allow hemp farming. Currently California state law does not differentiate between hemp crops and marijuana crops, so farmers have been hesitant to grow hemp for fear of having their crops confiscated.

Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that although he wants to encourage new state agricultural production, there is no federal law distinguishing between hemp and marijuana.

"Unfortunately, I am very concerned that this bill would give legitimate growers a false sense of security and a belief that production of 'industrial hemp' is somehow a legal activity under federal law," Schwarzenegger said.

AB1147 would have required farmers to submit to crop testing to guarantee that their variety of the cannabis plant was not a hallucinogenic form in return for not having their crops confiscated. Leno said the governor's veto was "...a case of politics sadly trumping science and sound public policy," and that California family farmers were being denied "a great cash crop."

John Roulac, founder and president of Nutiva -- a California-based company that sells hemp food products online at www.Nutiva.com -- calls Schwarzenegger's veto "unfortunate," but says the fact that the bill passed both houses in California was promising.

"We received so much publicity coverage -- we were in the New York Times, the LA Times, on PBS, CBS -- we educated a lot of people in the process, so that was positive," Roulac said. "I think that ultimately the marketplace will trump politics."

Roulac says efforts to legalize hemp have proven effective in North Dakota, where rules for growing industrial hemp have been approved by the governor, and in North Carolina, where legislation was recently passed to study industrial hemp. In response to allegations that industrial hemp could be smoked to produce the same effects as marijuana, Ken Junkert of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture said, "You'd have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole in order to get a headache."

Hemp proponents say the non-psychoactive plant has been misclassified as a Schedule 1 drug, and is vastly different from marijuana plants. For example, marijuana plants grow to 6 feet tall and are planted 4 feet apart, but hemp grows as high as 16 feet tall and is planted mere inches apart for maximum production. The plant is capable of growing in a variety of conditions and does not require herbicides or pesticides, Junkert said.

Roulac says the way to reverse the government's stance on the plant is through market demand, since common sense has not prevailed so far. "Logic and reason are not something that carries the day in Sacramento or Washington, D.C., and building the market for industrial hemp is the most powerful thing that we can do," Roulac said.

Leno says he will continue fighting for legalization on behalf of California farmers, stressing that industrial hemp is a $300 million industry in the United States, but cannot be legally grown here. He says he will try to pass the hemp legalization bill again in January.

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