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Press Release: Governor Schwarzenegger’s Veto of Hemp Bill is Bad for the Environment, Farmers and Economy

Veto is “Irrational” Agriculture Policy Based on Fear

SACRAMENTO, CA – Waiting until the last possible day to decide, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1147, The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, late in the day on Saturday, September 30. This landmark, bipartisan legislation if enacted would have established clear guidelines for farming of industrial hemp, which is used in a wide variety of everyday consumer products, including food, body care, clothing, paper and auto parts. Demand for hemp products has been growing rapidly in recent years with the US hemp product market now exceeding $270 million in estimated annual sales. The new law would have given farmers the ability to legally supply numerous California manufacturers that currently import hemp seed, oil and fiber.

“Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto is a let down for thousands of farmers, business people, and consumers that want to bring back industrial hemp to California to create jobs, new tax income and to benefit the environment,” says Eric Steenstra founder and President of Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading industrial hemp farming advocacy group. “The veto was not based on facts but instead an irrational fear he would look soft on drugs in an election year. His veto message shows he knew industrial hemp is an economic development and agriculture issue, but he instead allowed himself to be cowed by confused drug war lobbyists. AB 1147 would have reigned in the over reach by federal authorities that has prevented non-drug industrial hemp varieties of cannabis from be being grown on US soil for fiber and seed. It is disingenuous to cite federal restrictions when drug war lobbyists refuse to sit down with the large coalition of farmers, business people and environmentalists who crafted the industrial hemp legislation. Industrial hemp will continue to be the only crop that is legal to import, sell and consume, but illegal to grow, in California.”

AB 1147 clarified that the cultivation of industrial hemp is legal only on the condition it contains no more than three tenths of one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The legislation was jointly authored by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno and Republican Assemblyman Chuck Devore. The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act passed its final vote in the Senate on August 16th by a vote of 26-13 and passed in the Assembly on August 21st by a vote of 44-29.

“It’s unfortunate that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1147. We had looked forward to the hemp oil and seed in our products being grown and produced right here in California,” says David Bronner, Chair of the Hemp Industries Association’s Food and Oil Committee and President of Alpsnack/Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. “Farmers in California, like farmers all across the United States, are always looking for profitable crops like hemp to add to their rotation. This veto clearly points out why HR 3037, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005, needs to be passed on the Federal level.”

According to USDA researcher Lyster H. Dewey in the 1901 USDA Yearbook hemp was first cultivated in California in the late 1800′s in Butte County, near the town of Gridley, between Chico and Yuba City. In the 1913 USDA Yearbook Mr. Dewey wrote that “In 1912 hemp was first cultivated on a commercial scale under irrigation at Lerdo, near Bakersfield, Cal., and a larger acreage was grown there is 1913.” Commercial industrial hemp farming ceased in the state shortly after World War II.

The last commercial hemp crops in the United States were grown in Central Wisconsin in 1957 and these crops were purchased and processed by the Rens Hemp Co. in Brandon, about 40 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The primary reason industrial hemp has not been grown in the United States is because of its mis-classification as a Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 had provisions for farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp by paying an annual occupational tax of $1.00. The exemption for hemp products was contained in the definition of marihuana in the Act:

“The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L…. but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”

The language of the exemption was carried over almost verbatim in the definition of marihuana in the Controlled Substances Act [21 U.S.C. §802(16)] which superseded the 1937 Tax Act, but since there was no active hemp industry at the time the provisions for hemp farming were not part of the new Act.

There is also an exemption for hemp farming in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. Article 28 states that:

“2. This Convention shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes.”

The United States is a signer of the United Nations Single Convention and laws allowing the farming of industrial hemp would not be in conflict with the Single Convention.

The industrial hemp plant’s stalk is long and strong, has few branches, has been bred for maximum production of fiber and/or seed, and grows to up to 16 feet in height. It is planted in densities of 100 to 300 plants per square yard. Drug varieties of Cannabis grow to a height of 6 feet tall or less and has been bred to have many branches to maximize flowering and minimize seeds. It is planted with wide spaces between plants to enhance its bushiness. The drug and non-drug varieties are harvested at different times and the planting densities look very different from the air.

In 2002 Assembly Member Virginia Strom-Martin introduced AB 388. This bill would request that the University of California conduct an assessment of industrial hemp among other crops. AB 388 was vetoed by Governor Gray Davis later that year. Assembly Member Strom-Martin introduced AB 448 in 2001 to license industrial hemp for commercial purposes. The bill died in committee. In 1999 Assembly Member Strom-Martin introduced HR 32 in 1999. The resolution declared, among other findings, that the Legislature should consider action to allow industrial hemp growth in California as an agricultural and industrial crop. The Assembly passed the HR 32 the following month.

Seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have now changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes; however unlike under California’s AB 1147, all require a license to grow the crop from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Only Hawaii grew hemp in recent years, but the research program ended when the DEA refused to renew the license. California’s AB1147 addressed DEA’s bad faith interference by providing that the federal government has no basis or right to interfere with industrial hemp in California grown pursuant to AB1147.

Vote Hemp is a non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to grow low THC industrial hemp. More information about hemp legislation and the crop’s many uses can be found at http://www.VoteHemp.com. BETA SP and DVD Video News Release featuring footage of hemp farming in other countries is available upon request by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671.

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