Two Approaches to Hemp Demonstrate the Futility of Asking for Permission

Recently, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) provided a textbook example of why states and the people should block deplorable federal laws rather than seek permission before exercising their rights.

Even though the Nebraska legislature voted to approve hemp planting for university research two years ago, it insisted on requiring researchers to get federal permission. Ironically, hemp grows wild across the state. Residents refer to it as “ditch-weed.”

UNL’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture initially gave up their efforts to get federal permission for industrial hemp research after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) dragged out the process.

“Frustrated by the DEA’s slow response and bureaucratic cold-shoulder regarding UNL’s request to import hemp seeds from Canada, the horticultural heads at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had hoped to cultivate approximately two acres of industrial hemp just outside of Omaha this year. Unfortunately for all concerned, the project has been tossed onto the garbage heap of good ideas, thanks to a seemingly nonexistent response from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.”

Finally, more than a year-and-a-half after its initial application, the DEA finally came through with its approval.

It’s been the same story for other states utilizing the same “ask for permission” strategy. Minnesota received a permit from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for an industrial hemp pilot project. However, “expectations remain low” for the project, according to MPR News.

Geir Friisoe is the director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s plant protection division. His hope is that “we will have a few acres planted in Minnesota in 2016,” MPR News reports.

“I think just given some of the challenges we’ve had I think that’s a good start to getting this off the ground,” he said.

Meanwhile farmers in states like Colorado, Oregon and Vermont have decided to grow it without permission.

According to Vermont Public Radio, hemp growers registered with the Agency of Agriculture indicate they will plant around 60 acres of industrial hemp this year, dwarfing the acreage previously cultivated in the state.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 4060 into law in March, relaxing state laws regulating hemp already on the books. The new regulations make the crop more like other agricultural products. Last month, the Oregon Department of Agriculture promulgated new rules under the reformed law. According to Oregon’s Cannabis Connection, the rules set the stage to creates a “massive” medical hemp market.

Colorado has seen the largest growth in its hemp production, and it is estimated that amount of acreage dedicated to industrial hemp production is expected to double this year.

“We’re getting 10-15 registrants per day,” said Duane Sinning, program manager for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “And there are already 60 applications in progress.”

What the state does know: More than 4,700 acres of outdoor production and 800,000 square feet of indoor space are included in the 347 active registrations. That’s a boost already from 3,600 acres and 571,000 square feet last year.

The Oregon state legislature first legalized hemp cultivation in 2009. Voters then legalized hemp production in 2014, along with recreational marijuana.

In 2012 Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 to the state Constitution which legalized both recreational marijuana and industrial hemp, though they are regulated separately by the state.

The fed’s response to these states? Basically none. in fact, the federal government has adopted a policy on non-interference with state hemp programs.

In reality the feds can’t enforce these laws without the states helping them. States that go even further by legalizing the industry give it more legitimacy. This encourages more farmers to grow the crop. The more the market grows the less likely the feds will try to enforce prohibition.

While industrial hemp and recreational marijuana are both prohibited under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, they are different strains of the same plant. Industrial hemp has practically no trace of THC, the chemical in found in marijuana that makes it potent.

During the Colonial era, industrial hemp’s strong fibers made it ideal for making rope, clothing and fishing nets. Today, industrial hemp is primarily used for CBD oil, as it is the most lucrative product.

There are over 25,000 uses for hemp from textiles to biofuel production. While the US federal government bans the commercial farming and production of hemp, this is something George Washington did on all five of his farms. In fact, the U.S. currently ranks as the number one hemp importer in the world.

Hemp farmers in states like Colorado, Vermont and Oregon make legalization a reality by cultivating the plant in defiance of the federal government’s attempt at prohibition and without begging for approval from tyrannical bureaucrats. States like Nebraska should learn from their example and take steps to thwart the federal ban on industrial hemp.