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Michigan Farmers See a Cash Crop in Hemp

1/20/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: hemp, Michigan, farming

At Natural Home, we love hemp. We eat hemp food and recommend hemp textiles for many areas of the home, and we’re excited about the role hemp’s taking on in insulation and other major building materials. Hemp’s a cool plant. But sadly, our enthusiasm for hemp can’t support anyone’s local economy in the United States. It’s legal to sell hemp products, but it’s illegal to grow the hemp here.

hemp leaves
The United States spends an estimated $360 million on imported hemp. Photo By Dena v.d.Wal/Courtesy Flickr 

A group of northern Michigan farmers is among a growing chorus that wants to change that. Recently, Everett Swift, a Michigan farmer, urged the Board of Commissioners in Montmorency County to pass a resolution in support of hemp farming. He pointed out that the money the United States spends on imported hemp, an estimated $360 million according to the Hemp Industries Association could be going to American farmers.

Oregon, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Vermont have passed pro-hemp legislation. Even though these states have made hemp cultivation legal, federal law still states that it is illegal to grow hemp, and farmers must obtain a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency before they can grow hemp without fear of prosecution.

Unfortunately, the DEA doesn’t seem likely to hand out licenses anytime soon. Just before Christmas, the federal courts dismissed a case where two North Dakota farmers were suing the DEA over a permit. The farmers, Wayne Hauge and David Monson, were issued North Dakota’s first license to grow hemp in 2007. The farmers then applied for the DEA permit, which they never got. The farmers sued the DEA, saying they should be allowed to grow industrial hemp without fear of prosecution, but the courts dismissed the case. Not all farmers wait for the DEA permit, however. Last October Montana officials issued the state’s first license to grow hemp to Laura Bozeman, who said she had no intention of attaining a permit from the DEA.

Swift and other hemp supporters at the meeting say they want their county to be the catalyst for change in the state. The county commission took no action, but the farmers said they would continue to show up and campaign for hemp.

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