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Woman Crusades Against Hemp Law

Posted on June 12, 2000

By Daniel F Drummond, The Washington Times

Joyce D Nalepka’s battle against marijuana began in 1977 with a Kiss. When she went to the rock band’s concert with her two sons, she saw the pervasiveness of pot and a drug culture that threatened children.

Now, the Silver Spring, Maryland grandmother, passionate about her cause, has a new target: a four-year pilot program that one day may allow industrial hemp to grow alongside corn and wheat on Maryland’s pastoral farms.

Hemp leaves belong to the same family as marijuana.

Last month, Maryland Gov. Parris N Glendening signed into law a bill establishing the program. At the bill-signing ceremony, Mrs. Nalepka — armed with a bumper sticker reading “Boycott Pot (and ALL hemp products)” — made her way into the picture.

“I knew [I was] close enough to the governor to talk to him,” Mrs. Nalepka said. She seized the chance to chide Mr. Glendening, whispering to him her disapproval of the hemp bill.

“[The new law] is absolutely the wrong message. It’s about legalizing pot. They know marijuana and hemp are the same thing,” she said of the pilot program. “It hurts kids and helps legalizers.”

The anti-drug crusader said whispering into the governor’s ear is just the beginning.

“We’ll be working behind the scenes,” Mrs. Nalepka said, adding that Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, can “save face” by passing another measure negating the one he just made law.

She vowed to educate the public about the cannabis sativa plant, including the innocuous hemp and its sinister sister — marijuana.

Michelle Byrnie, Mr. Glendening’s press secretary, said there’s no way this can be construed as an endorsement of pot.

“It’s not legalizing it for recreational purposes,” Ms. Byrnie said. “It doesn’t allow just anyone to grow hemp.”

Mrs. Nalepka dismissed those claims as “balderdash,” and said the state is as culpable in the spread of drugs as a Colombian cartel.

“Why do we expect Colombia to eradicate it when we grow it?” she asked.

A member of Mrs. Nalepka’s anti-drug group, Missouri state trooper Lt. Ed Moses, said Maryland is joining a frightening trend that may open the door to the legalization of marijuana.

“It’s not just a concern of the image,” Lt. Moses said. “It’s an actual manifestation of the problem.”

In looking at hemp as an economically sustainable crop, Maryland and other states essentially are endorsing marijuana because nearly everyone knows that the hemp and marijuana originate from the same plant, he said.

“If it’s perceived as low risk, you have a high abuse rate,” Lt. Moses said.

Mrs. Nalepka acknowledged that it’s difficult to lobby against hemp groups pushing for legalization; some have a vast Internet presence and strong financial backing, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

But, she said, she’s not deterred. She will do what she has done for nearly a quarter century: keep after lawmakers with her unceasing assault on illegal drugs.

“This is another challenge or hurrah for me. We are certainly not going to let this lie,” she said.

Over the past 23 years, Mrs. Nalepka has had some successes. The support she got through calls to friends, neighbors and every mother she knew prodded Maryland into enacting a law banning “head” shops and certain drug paraphernalia in 1980.

Copyright © 2000, News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.