A Bill To Grow Hemp in New Hampshire Moves Forward

A Bill To Grow Hemp in New Hampshire Moves Forward
Posted by FoM on February 05, 2000 at 09:47:57 PT
By Bruce Whitman for SentinelSource 
Source: Keene Sentinel
Thursday morning, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a federal judge's ruling that hemp, a relative of the marijuana plant, could not be grown commercially. Later Thursday, the N.H. House Finance Committee voted 16-5 to recommend that the entire House approve a bill to legalize hemp cultivation on a commercial scale. 
The bill approved by the committee would allow farmers to grow hemp after obtaining a permit. The state would issue licenses to grow hemp, be the sole supplier of the seeds and regulate the industry. People with criminal records involving drug offenses within the past 10 years would automatically be ineligible for a permit. The bill will be voted on by the full House next Thursday. If it passes, the bill moves on to the Senate. Mark Lathrop of Chesterfield, chairman of the N.H. Hemp Council, said the finance committee's recommendation gives backers a boost. "It carries a lot of weight coming on to the House floor," he said. In January the House voted 181-167 to have the Finance Committee review what it would cost the state if the bill became law. Hemp is a close relative of marijuana but has a very low content of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp is grown for the tough fiber in its stem. The fiber can be used to make fabrics, ropes and papers. The 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 plastic. Opponents said it would cost the state $55,000 for a gas chromatograph -- a machine that analyzes THC levels in hemp -- and they estimated the state would have to pay $92,625 a year for a chemist to run the tests. As a compromise, Lathrop said the N.H. Hemp Council added an amendment to the bill requiring hemp growers to pay for the cost of testing their crops for THC content once a year. An additional amendment added to the bill to appease law enforcement officials -- who worry that marijuana farmers could hide their crops with industrial hemp plants to avoid detection -- would make it illegal for anyone to possess hemp without a hemp grower's license. Rep. Amy Robb-Theroux, D-Claremont, who cosponsored the bill with Rep. Derek Owen, D-Hopkinton, said N.H. farmers could make more money growing hemp than corn. And while opponents try to link hemp with marijuana cultivation, the purpose of the bill is simply to help farmers. "As the bill moves forward, we need to keep sight of its real purpose, not that which some may try to attach to it," she said in a statement released after the Finance Committee vote. "Above all, this is an effort to give New Hampshire farmers access to a niche market that promises real economic benefits." Canada started allowing hemp production in 1998. Farmers planted 6,000 acres, claiming profits of as much as $200 an acre at a time when growers struggled just to break even on such traditional crops as wheat. In the United States, hemp can be grown only with permission from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. But N.H. farmers can't get a federal permit without state agreement. The legal ruling out of Boston stemmed from a suit filed by Owen, a farmer, and the hemp council to clear the way for hemp cultivation in the state. Owen and the council argued that Congress, in defining "marijuana," had not criminalized the growth of "non-psychoactive" cannabis sativa, the plant from which industrial hemp is derived. However, a U.S. District Court judge in Concord concluded in September 1998 that Congress' definition of marijuana includes all cannabis sativa plants, even if they are grown solely for the production of industrial products. Owen and the hemp council then took their case to the federal appeals court, which upheld the federal court ruling this week. Lathrop said the hemp council might appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Associated Press contributed to this report. The Keene SentinelPhone: 603-352-1234Fax: 603-352-043760 West StreetKeene NH 03431-0546Email our Webmaster: webmaster keenesentinel.comPublished: February 5, 2000 1999 Keene Publishing CorpRelated Articles: N.H. Agriculture Chief Testifies for Hemp Bill N.H., Fight to Legalize Hemp is Gaining Ground Huge Hurdle is Cleared for Hemp Legalization Gives Initial OK To Legalized Hemp Industry Hemp Archives:
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