(NaturalNews) A pair of North Dakota hemp farmers have filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn a federal ban on the production of commercial hemp.
North Dakota is the only state that allows the cultivation of industrial hemp, and the state legislature recently lifted a requirement that hemp farmers first seek permits from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
But because federal regulations still prohibit state-regulated hemp farming, North Dakota farmers Dave Monson and Wayne Hague filed a lawsuit on June 9 to overturn this ban. A federal court dismissed their case on November 29 (2007?), and the farmers have now appealed to the next level.
Monson and Hague argue that contrary to the DEA's arguments, industrial hemp is not the same as marijuana. While both are varieties of the cannabis plant, hemp advocates point to numerous scientific studies showing that industrial hemp is genetically distinct and does not contain high enough concentrations of the narcotic chemical THC to be used as a recreational drug.
Industrial hemp varieties include those used to produce oilseeds or fiber plants. Advocates of hemp say that the plant can be produced with very low ecological impact compared with other fiber sources, such as cotton. In addition, the hemp seed is 25 percent protein, making it second only to soy beans as a vegetable source of complete protein.
The United States lifted its ban on the sale of hemp-containing foods in 2001, but did not lift the ban on production. This led to a surge in hemp cultivation in Canada, which currently exports approximately 90 percent of its crop and the products produced from its crop to the United States. The North American hemp market has continued to grow, now totaling $300 million in yearly retail sales.
Hemp advocates point to Canada as proof that hemp cultivation does not create drug problems.
"Canada grows over 30,000 acres of industrial hemp annually without any law enforcement problems," said Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra.