Inside the Beltway

Loud silence

Did you hear about the two North Dakota farmers who filed a lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court so that they can start hemp farming in their state without fear of federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act?

Last February, the pair of farmers — state Rep. David Monson and Wayne Hauge — were issued state licenses to grow industrial hemp from North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson. But when the growers applied for a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) permit to import and grow the seeds, they were met with silence.

And that’s what concerns them.

One of the lawsuit’s central arguments is that industrial hemp is defined to be those varieties of cannabis that have no drug value and are cultivated exclusively for fiber (ethanol/biofuels, textiles, apparel, fabrics, bags, shoes, socks, netting, canvas, carpet, mulch, fiberboard, insulation, boiler fuel, paper, newsprint, cardboard, packaging), and seed (bread, cereals, granola, ice cream, milk, flour, salad oils, margarine, soaps, shampoos, hand creams, cosmetics, lip balms, paints, solvents, inks, diesel fuel).

But the DEA, the lawsuit points out, considers industrial hemp plants to be “marijuana,” the possession or production of which is subject to criminal penalties, including property forfeiture. Thus, the reason for the lawsuit.

“We are asking that DEA do nothing,” explains Tim Purdon, one of the attorneys representing the farmers. “North Dakota’s rules no longer require a DEA permit, so we are basically asking the court to tell DEA to leave our farmers alone.”

(Disclaimer: Four Red, White & Blueberry hemp seed bars, a product of Canada and its farmers, were consumed by this columnist while writing the above item, sent to us by votehemp.com).

c John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@ washingtontimes.com.

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