A Huge Hurdle is Cleared for Hemp Legalization 

A Huge Hurdle is Cleared for Hemp Legalization 
Posted by FoM on January 10, 2000 at 14:18:20 PT
By Bruce Whitman for SentinelSource 
Source: SentinelSource
When House lawmakers gave preliminary approval last week to a bill legalizing the hemp industry in New Hampshire, it marked the first victory in a three-year fight for local hemp supporters. Mark Lathrop, co-chairman of the N.H. Hemp Council and owner of the Monadnock Hemporium on West Street, said the group jumped a "huge, hugh hurdle" when the N.H. House okayed the bill, 181-167. 
Hemp is a plant grown for the tough fiber in its stem. The fiber can be used to make fabrics, ropes and paper. Its seeds can be eaten as a dietary supplement or ground and used for making oil and industrial lubricants. The hurd of the plant -- the inner core -- is 80 percent cellulose and can be converted to plastics. The Hemp Council sees growing hemp as a way for farmers to diversify their crops. Lathrop said a farmer would need to plant only 10 acres of hemp to turn a profit. The problem, for some: Hemp, which is grown legally in most countries in the world including Canada, also belongs to the same plant family as marijuana. That has police officials and some lawmakers concerned. "The fact is hemp is not pot -- never has been and never will be," Lathrop says, sitting on a small stool in the front window of his store. "The confusion between hemp and pot has been perpetuated for 80 years." Hemp does contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives pot smokers a high, and police officials are concerned hemp will be grown for illegal disribution. However, Lathrop claims the amount of THC found in hemp is so low that a person could "smoke a pound of the stuff" and not be affected. According to Lathrop, the National Institute for Drug Abuse says a plant must contain a concentration of at least 3 percent THC to produce a high. Marijuana sold on the street is in the 5 percent or higher range, he says. "Thirty-eight different strains of hemp are below 1 percent," Lathrop said. "Diversion into dry trade is never, ever going to happen. Law enforcement officials lose credibility when they say that." Legislation to legalize hemp began in the fall of 1997. That bill was killed in committee but was brought back to the House floor in 1999. Several amendments were added to the original bill that Lathrop said went "a long way to appeasing the opposition." The bill lost by nine votes, but Rep. Peter R. Leishman, R-Milford, an author of the bill's amendments, saved the bill by getting enough votes to send it back to the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. In a close vote, that committee recommended further study for the bill. Committee Chairman George T. Musler, R-Barrington, needed to vote to break a tie. "He was in a conundrum," Lathrop said. "Do the right thing for agriculture in this state" or save his political skin. But the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Derek Owen, D-Hopkington, convinced the House to reject the study, 176-172, and instead pass the bill. The bill now moves on to the House Finance Committee and faces a second house vote later this year. Deputy state Safety Commissioner John Stephen said last week that law enforcement officials will continue to fight the bill. "It is marijuana, that's what it is," he said. "We will continue to state our case." Lathrop said he is optimistic the bill will make it to the Senate. If it passes there, it will go to Gov. Jeanne Shaheen to be signed into law. He said the hemp council has had preliminary meetings with Shaheen staffers and expects the governor will pass the bill. "We met with (Shaheen representative) Susan Arnold," he said. "We sat down for an hour and some people get it and some people don't. She got it." The Hemp Council also has an appeal pending in the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Boston against the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Lathrop said the council had a case dismissed in U.S. District Court in Concord that would have "gotten the DEA out of agriculture." According to Lathrop, the DEA can prosecute hemp growers under marijuana laws and charges farmers $800 per year for a hemp permit. Hemp is a $16 million per year crop in Canada. In 1938, Popular Science called hemp, "the billion dollar crop" here in the United States. THE KEENE SENTINELPhone: 603-352-1234Fax: 603-352-043760 West StreetKeene NH 03431-0546Email our Webmaster: webmaster keenesentinel.comę 1999 Keene Publishing Corp - All Rights Reserved Related Articles:House Gives Initial OK To Legalized Hemp Industry-1/05/2000 Votes To Let Farmers Grow Industrial Hemp - 1/05/2000 
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