Hemp-Growing Gardens Proposed for S.F.

Hemp-Growing Gardens Proposed for S.F.
Posted by FoM on June 08, 1999 at 06:20:21 PT
Moneymaker for nonprofits supervisor says!
Source: SF Gate
Bidding to have San Francisco join the growing movement to turn hemp into a commercial product, Supervisor Mark Leno proposed yesterday that nonprofit gardens in the city be allowed to grow and process the banned substance.
Hemp, a much milder relative of marijuana, is supposed to be legal to grow by permit in the United States for industrial purposes. But since the 1950s, the federal government has effectively blocked its cultivation by making it impossible to get permits. Advocates of the plant speak of it as practically a miracle product that can be used in a wide range of items -- food, clothing, soap, paper, carpets and more. And while the cane- like hemp plant cannot be grown in this country, imports of hemp products are soaring, to $75 million in 1997 from $43 million in 1993. ``I'd like to see San Francisco get ahead of the ball on this. This would help our nonprofits do good and make money at the same time,'' Leno said at the board meeting. He asked City Attorney Louise Renne's staff to write a proposed ordinance embodying his idea. Leno's plan is patterned after a law recently signed by North Dakota Governor Edward Schafer allowing farmers in his state to ask for permits from the Drug Enforcement Administration to grow hemp. Hawaii, where the sugar industry is faltering, has a similar proposal nearing enactment, said John Roulac of Hemptech, a Sebastopol hemp seed supplier. Kentucky, home to troubled tobacco farms, is breeding a grassroots hemp movement. Roulac said Leno's idea is a good one, although he is not sure of the commercial possibilities in a city like San Francisco. ``Any message to the American people and farmers and business on this is good. We want America to catch up to the rest of the world,'' Roulac said. ``But hemp would be grown on farms, although long- term there is potential for hemp to be grown on smaller plots.'' The DEA's position is that hemp is classified along with marijuana because it contains the same active substance, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. But whereas pot can be 5 to 20 percent THC, industrial hemp is less than 1 percent THC. The federal government also maintains that easing up on hemp would send the wrong message to young people about drugs. Roulac said that was nothing to worry about. ``You get a headache from smoking hemp. And the more you smoke, the worse the headache,'' he said. The DEA has not said what it will do if farmers in North Dakota and Hawaii approach it for permits. Leno said he had spoken recently with one nonprofit agency, the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners, and had gotten an enthusiastic response from executive director Mohammed Naru. Naru was unavailable for comment yesterday. The group gets city funds to help train people in gardening skills. Fears have also been expressed that commercial pot growers would mix in their plants with hemp. But Leno said it would be hard to grow hemp and marijuana in the same field because hemp plants mature in 90 days and marijuana in 150. The pot plants would be destroyed when the hemp is harvested. He also said studies have found that cross-pollination between the two plants results in marijuana losing its potency. 
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