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Montana Woman Issued State’s First License to Grow Hemp

10/30/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: hemp, farming, Drug Enforement Administration

Last month I wrote about Oregon becoming the sixth state to legalize hemp production. This month, we’ve taken another step toward legalizing production of this great plant! Laura Murphy from Bozeman, Montana, has been issued the state’s first license to grow hemp. Montana’s legislature made hemp production legal in 2001, but Murphy was the first to apply for the two-year license. Murphy told the Missoula, Montana, Missoulian that she plans to lease 160 acres of unused ranch land to grow the hemp.

sustainable hemp
Hemp is a sustainable, versatile plant that could help stimulate the U.S. economy—if it was legal to harvest in the States. Photo By over the atlas/Courtesy Flickr. 

Federal law bans hemp cultivation because it’s distantly related to marijuana, although it contains low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets users high. Because of this, Murphy will have to attain a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which she says she has no intention of doing. Hemp became illegal with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Since then, all industrial hemp sold and used in the United States has been imported from Canada, China and Europe. Hemp products amounted to $300 million in annual retail sales in North America last year—money that could be going to American farmers.

Six states including, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, North Dakota and Vermont have already set up state-regulated programs for growing hemp (pending DEA action), but the federal government doesn’t recognize those laws. In 2002, Montana officials applied to the DEA for recognition of their state’s hemp-growing laws, but the request was denied. A few U.S. hemp-growing operations have received DEA clearance, but only after the growers installed fencing and security to prevent public access to the hemp.

Also this month, six activists protests the hemp-farming ban by planting packets of hemp crunch, toasted (and ungrowable) hemp seeds imported from Canada, on the lawn of the DEA headquarters. The activists included two farmers and other hemp industry leaders including Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps president David Bronner, Vote Hemp communications director Adam Eidinger, Hemp Industries Association president Steve Levine and Livity Outernational Hemp Clothing founder Issac Nichelson. The activists were arrested on trespassing charges.

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