Governor nips hemp study in the bud - Strom-Martin disappointed by decision
SACRAMENTO, California - Over the weekend, Governor Gray Davis vetoed Assembly Bill 388 by Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin (D-Duncans Mills) which asked the University of California to conduct an economic feasibility study of alternative fibrous crops including industrial hemp, kenaf and flax.
"I'm very disappointed that the Governor did not support an exploration of the industrial hemp market in California," Strom-Martin said. "When the bill was sent to the Governor, it had the support of the agriculture and hemp industry and had no opposition. I don't understand why the bill was vetoed because it doesn't permit the planting of industrial hemp. The bill simply asked the UC Agricultural Extension Center to produce a study on the economic opportunities for hemp in California based on extrapolated data from other states and countries."
Governor Davis returned to the bill to the Assembly without his signature because the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) applies the same strict controls to industrial hemp as it does to marijuana. The federal government fails to distinguish hemp from marijuana even though it contains trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The small amount of THC in hemp is so minute that if one were to smoke industrial hemp, chances are that individual would die of lung failure before ever attaining any sort of high.
The production of industrial hemp is currently legal in more than 25 countries including Canada, France, Germany, and China. In recent years, 17 other states have passed or are considering pro-hemp legislation based upon the premise that hemp cultivation is an agricultural issue and as such, is a states' rights issue. In 2000, the National Conference of State Legislatures wrote a letter to President Clinton urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Drug Enforcement Agency and Congress to revise policies regarding hemp and to allow states to establish regulatory programs.
Vote Hemp, a national pro-hemp advocacy group, has been actively lobbying members of Congress and has been successful in securing support for this cause at the federal level. Senator Kent Conrad (D- North Dakota) has announced plans to introduce an amendment to Agricultural Appropriations Bill that would distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana and allow farmers to grow it under a system regulated by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture.
California's agriculture industry is considered the most diversified in the world, producing over 350 crops and commodities. California is also a major contributor to the United States' balance of trade. Approximately 20% of all the state's agricultural products are shipped overseas. Given those facts, California is in a prime position to capitalize on the exploding international hemp market. In 1999, worldwide sales of hemp and hemp-based products totaled $250 million and since then, the market has grown substantially with corporate entities entering the market.
"Industrial hemp could be of immense benefit to the economy and the environment of the North Coast and rural California in general," Strom-Martin said. "This bill requested the study of the potential California industrial hemp market so that when the federal prohibition on growing hemp is lifted and I believe it will be, our farmers and businesses will have the option of entering and profiting from that market. It is my hope that one day California, as a leader in agricultural innovation and food production, will also one day become a leader in the fight to legalize industrial hemp."
For more information please contact:
Sieglinde (Missy) Johnson
Office of Assemblymember Strom-Martin
Tel: (916) 319-2001
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