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Trial set for hemp advocate Woody Harrelson

Posted on June 2, 2000

By Reuters

Lexington, Kentucky — Actor Woody Harrelson goes on trial in August for planting four hemp seeds in his crusade to cultivate the plant for industrial use, but his lawyer said the evidence had disappeared like a puff of smoke.

Louie Nunn, a former conservative Republican governor of Kentucky, said he will defend Harrelson, though he has never met him nor seen any of his movies.

Nunn said he volunteered to defend Harrelson for free because he agrees with him that hemp as a cash crop would be a boon to Kentucky farmers.

Harrelson was arrested in 1996 for ceremoniously planting four hemp seeds in rural Kentucky to challenge a Kentucky law that makes no distinction between marijuana and hemp. Hemp can be used to make textiles, paper, soap and other products, but contains little of the drug found in its more potent relative.

Nunn said authorities never found the hemp seeds Harrelson allegedly planted, and did not have any evidence that the seeds germinated — making the misdemeanor possession charge tough to prove.

A Lee County District Court Thursday set Harrelson’s jury trial for Aug. 24, following a ruling earlier this year by the Kentucky Supreme Court that he stand trial. The court overturned dismissals of the case by lower courts, saying that police cannot differentiate between the plants, so legalizing hemp would make laws against marijuana unenforceable.

County Prosecutor Tom Jones said Harrelson could face up to a year in jail and a $500 fine if convicted. He said the actor refused a plea bargain offer of either 30 days in jail or an agreement to avoid any connection with hemp or marijuana in Kentucky for a year.

Harrelson, famous on television as the bartender in “Cheers” and for his roles in “Natural Born Killers” and other Hollywood films, has said hemp was Kentucky’s leading cash crop 50 years ago and could be again, saving trees and giving farmers alternative to tobacco.

Copyright © 2000, Reuters. All rights reserved.