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North Dakota, three other states make pitch to allow hemp cultivation

Posted on February 17, 2006

Ag Commission Johnson says Drug Enforcement Agency “cordial,” but cautioned about fed law complications

Grand Forks, North Dakota — North Dakota and three other states made their case today with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson and counterparts from West Virginia, Massachusetts and Wisconsin met with several DEA officials.

In a news release, Johnson said his department is drafting new rules to control the production of industrial hemp, and that he wanted to solicit input from DEA. The new rules would implement state laws, passed by the Legislature in 1999 through 2005.

DEA officials were “very cordial” but cautioned that the process of legalizing industrial hemp production would be extremely complicated under existing federal law, Johnson said in a statement.

“DEA has never responded to our earlier inquiries,” Johnson said, “but today, we were able to present our case and learn from them what may be required in terms of regulations and safeguards.”

According to the state Department of Agriculture, industrial hemp (cannabis sativa) is widely grown around the world and is used in the manufacture of textiles, papers and rope. Its seed is also used for food and feed. Oil derived from the plant is used in cosmetics, paints and medicinal compounds. The industrial form of hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive drug delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana, although DEA currently does not recognize industrial hemp apart from marijuana.

The United States is alone among industrialized countries in banning cultivation of industrial hemp, Johnson said, adding that Canada lifted their band in 1998.

He said industrial hemp could do well in North Dakota as a valuable rotational crop and another income source.