BISMARCK, N.D. (Aug. 1, 2015) – Today, a North Dakota law authorizing the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state goes into effect, nullifying in practice the federal prohibition on the same.
Introduced by Reps. David Monson (R-10) and Alan Fehr (R-36) along with Sen. Tom Campbell (R-19), House Bill 1436 (HB1436) passed 87-5 in the House and 46-1 vote in the Senate. It was signed into law by Gov. Dalrymple in March, and takes effect today.
HB1436 not only sets up the framework to effectuate a commercial hemp farming program in the state, it expressly rejects any need for federal approval before growing hemp in the state. It reads, in part:
“A license required by this section is not conditioned on or subject to review or approval by the United States drug enforcement agency.”
Since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. While the agency claims that growing is not prohibited, it also stipulates that growing can only be done with a DEA-issued license. However, only one license has ever been issued by the federal government.
By expressly rejecting any need for federal approval, the new law in North Dakota nullifies this federal ban in practice. North Dakota joins other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont – that have passed similar measures.
Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. Laws passed last year in Tennessee and South Carolina, and this year in North Dakota and Maine, all legalize hemp even though the federal government considers this plant illegal.
“What this gets down to is the power of the people,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When enough people tell the feds to pound sand, there’s not much D.C. can do to continue their unconstitutional prohibition on this productive plant.”
HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.
BEYOND FEDERAL PERMISSION
Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses is still prohibited. The North Dakota law rejects this prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.
This is an essential first step forward, but the key is whether or not courageous farmers in North Dakota will start growing industrial hemp without further authorization from Washington D.C., as is already happening in other states today.