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Bill lays out policy on hemp

Published (2/22/2008)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Minnesota could join a neighboring state in its effort to allow the growing of industrial hemp.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) told the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee Feb. 20 that North Dakota is taking the lead on challenging federal law.

George Weiblen, University of Minnesota associate professor of plant biology, testifies before the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veteran Affairs Committee Feb. 20 on a bill that would develop the industrial hemp industry in Minnesota. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)The bill she sponsors, HF2168, would lay out policy for industrial hemp production in the state. However, Kahn said that nothing could happen “until Congress approves the change and the Department of Drug Enforcement actually has granted an application for somewhere.” The bill would only be saying that “after the problems are taken care of on the federal level, we’d be ready to go,” she said.

The committee approved the bill, and it now moves to the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee. There is no Senate companion.

Hemp production was banned by the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, largely because of fears the plant could mask growth of its cousin, the marijuana plant.

Until that time, industrial hemp was grown legally in the United States for a wide variety of purposes, including cloth and paper production. Kahn said that Betsy Ross used hemp to create the first American flag, and that a draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp.

Supporters say that products made from industrial hemp grown in Canada are currently available in this country.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Wabasha) said hemp grows freely in the state, and is considered a noxious weed. His concern that its presence would only increase in ditches and elsewhere was supported by George Weiblen, a University of Minnesota Department of Plant Biology professor and researcher.

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