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Actor Woody Harrelson is scheduled for trial in August on a drug charge

Posted on June 2, 2000

By Andy Mead, The Lexington Herald-Leader

Lexington, Kentucky – Actor Woody Harrelson will stand trial in August for planting four hemp seeds in a grassy Lee County field four years ago yesterday.

Among the “dream team” of lawyers trying to keep him out of jail: Former Gov. Louie Nunn.

A jury will be asked to decide whether Harrelson is guilty of misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

The case began as a challenge to a Kentucky law that makes no distinction between marijuana and hemp. It went all the way to the state Supreme Court, where all seven justices reversed lower court rulings and said the law is constitutional.

Now comes the Aug. 24 trial.

Nunn, who in the last few months has become an outspoken advocate of hemp, will offer his services free of charge.

He says Kentucky needs to get into hemp production ahead of competing states. He hands out copies of “If You Think Hemp is a Drug, Smoke This Book,” a pamphlet from the pro-hemp Canadian Auto Workers Union.

Nunn said yesterday that he has neither met Harrelson nor seen any of his films, but looks forward to the trial.

“I feel this is a way to disseminate information on industrial hemp because of the personalities involved,” Nunn said.

Prosecutor Tom Jones, the county attorney in Lee County, said Nunn’s presence would give Harrelson a “dream team” on defense.

“I think he’s an excellent choice,” he said. “The last Republican governor in a Republican county they couldn’t have made a better choice.”

The trial will be in Lee District Court. Jones guessed there might be 50 to 75 misdemeanor marijuana arrests a year in Lee County, but he said they seldom come to trial. Conviction means a possible year in jail and $500 fine.

Jones earlier said he had offered Harrelson a deal: 30 days in jail, or stay away from hemp and marijuana in Kentucky for a year. It was rejected. The prosecutor declined yesterday to discuss what penalty he would press for.

In a statement, Harrelson said he chose trial because he thought Kentucky farmers should be able to grow hemp.

“I feel comfortable putting my fate in the hands of the people of Kentucky, believing six of my peers will see the absurdity of this law and refuse to send me to jail,” Harrelson said.

Nunn said “possession” would be difficult to prove because the sheriff never found the tiny hemp seeds Harrelson planted, and the seeds apparently never sprouted.

Another of Harrelson’s attorneys, Charles Beal II of Lexington, said intent would play a role in the trial.

“I think it’s safe to say that he never had any intent to do anything with marijuana on that day in Lee County,” Beal said.

Copyright © 2000, The Lexington Herald-Leader. All rights reserved.