North Dakota May Legalize Hemp Cultivation

We love hemp here at Treehugger, and have not only featured numerous products made from this versatile plant, but have even tried to lay to rest some of the myths surrounding this cousin of the "demon weed." So we were happy to see that the state of North Dakota is pushing forward with plans to create a licensing procedure for farmers that would like to add this crop to their rotation. That's right: a state previously known mainly for really cold winters and Fargo will likely become the first to legalize hemp cultivation. According to an article in today's
North Dakota is pushing ahead with plans to license state farmers to grow industrial hemp even as it tries to allay law enforcement fears about marijuana's biological cousin.

State Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson and his department are crafting hemp rules after meeting in February with Drug Enforcement Agency officials in Washington. A public hearing on the proposed rules is slated for June 15.

The rules would require a criminal background check on farmers who want to grow hemp. The sale of hemp and location of the hemp fields must be documented. And the farmer must get a permit from the DEA.

Adam Eidinger, a spokesman for Vote Hemp, the lobbying arm of the hemp industry, said North Dakota is the first state to actually craft rules to license hemp farmers.

"We're very supportive," Eidinger said of the state's efforts.

While this move is largely symbolic, as federal laws prohibiting hemp cultivation still override any state-level efforts, North Dakota could both start a rational discussion on the economic and environmental benefits of growing industrial hemp, and position itself as a leader in the industry should the folks in Washington come to their senses.

Can you smoke hemp? Sure. You can also smoke the leaves that fall off the oak tree in your back yard. Both will likely give you a good headache and nothing more. Industrial hemp cultivation could prove a real boon to US farmers and manufacturers, so perhaps it's time to get past our confusion and join with countries like Canada and Romania that have found hemp a sustainable and profitable cash crop. ::