N.H. Agriculture Chief Testifies for Hemp Bill

N.H. Agriculture Chief Testifies for Hemp Bill
Posted by FoM on January 21, 2000 at 16:50:54 PT
By the Associated Press 
Source: SentinelSource
There must be a way to clear obstacles to growing hemp legally, and New Hampshire ought to find it, says Stephen H. Taylor, the state agriculture commissioner. Legalizing hemp would be a blessing for N.H. farmers who have been hurt by a dwindling demand for hay, Taylor told a House committee Thursday. 
"If they can do it in Canada, then let's figure a way to do it here," Taylor said. Taylor testified for a bill that would allow farmers to apply for federal permits to grow hemp, a close relative of marijuana. The House approved the bill earlier this month, and it's now being considered by the House Finance Committee. Police and safety officials oppose the bill. They say legalizing hemp would make it tougher to enforce marijuana laws and could encourage drug use among teenagers. Taylor acknowledged their concerns, but said lawmakers should find a way to deal with them. "There appear to be some significant opportunities here," Taylor said of hemp-growing for profit. "But in some way or fashion, these law enforcement people have got to be made happy." Taylor said about 350 N.H. farmers have expressed interest in growing hemp. Hemp has been a lively issue in the Monadnock Region, where Mark Lathrop, a Keene businessman, has been preaching the benefits of hemp for years. Lathrop is a mover in the N.H. Hemp Council, and retails hemp products at his Keene store, the Monadnock Hemporium. Hemp has only about 0.3 percent THC, the chemical in marijuana that gives a high. Marijuana available on the street contains 15 percent to 20 percent THC, officials say. Growing hemp is legal in Canada, Hawaii, North Dakota and Minnesota, and several other states are considering legalizing it. The plant is used in a wide range of products, from clothing to building materials to skin lotions. In Canada, hemp farmers clear the equivalent of about $200 in U.S. currency per acre, making it extremely profitable, said John Howell, a part-time Tamworth resident who heads a company called Planet Hemp. He said about 90 percent of the hemp processed in Canada finds its way to the United States. "The market is here, so we want to locate the raw material here," Howell said. Supporters also circulated a letter to the Finance Committee from Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, a chain of stores that sells skin-care products. "Our faith in industrial hemp as the crop of the future means that we will support the farmers who grow it, in New Hampshire and elsewhere. In 1999, The Body Shop bought $108,553 worth of hempseed oil. We anticipate this figure will almost double in the coming year," the letter reads. Lathrop, who owns land in Chesterfield, said Roddick has promised to buy his entire crop of hemp seed if the bill passes. "I'm not even putting my seed in the ground yet, and my harvest has been sold," Lathrop said. "I'd be able to pay my mortgage. There's a concept." But John Stephen, assistant state safety commissioner, said any possible financial benefits of hemp will not be worth its impact on the war against illicit drugs. "Legalizing hemp would create a perception of marijuana legalization in this state, and that perception would, we feel, lead to an increase in marijuana use among teens," Stephen said. Stephen said prosecutions could become a problem; people caught with marijuana might use the "It's only hemp" defense. Prosecutors would then have to test the substance to prove it's marijuana, and it costs $55,000 to buy a machine that can distinguish between marijuana and hemp, not counting someone to run it, Stephen said. Berlin Police Lt. Peter Morency questioned the notion that hemp is the plant of the future. He said worldwide production has dropped 25 percent in the last 30 years. Rep. Robert Boyce, R-Alton, contends the hemp bill is a smoke screen for people who want to make it easier to grow marijuana. ConcordTHE KEENE SENTINELPhone: 603-352-1234Fax: 603-352-043760 West StreetKeene NH 03431-0546Email our Webmaster: webmaster keenesentinel.comPublished: January 21, 2000 1999 Keene Publishing CorpRelated Articles: Plan To Legalize Hemp Gets Mixed Reviews - 1/20/2000 N.H., Fight to Legalize Hemp is Gaining Ground-1/16/2000 Huge Hurdle is Cleared for Hemp Legalization - 1/10/2000 Gives Initial OK To Legalized Hemp Industry-1/05/2000 Votes To Let Farmers Grow Industrial Hemp - 1/05/2000 
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