From: Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published December 13, 2007 08:46 PM

Hemp Farmers Appeal Federal Court Decision

BISMARCK, N.D. - Two North Dakota farmers, who filed a federal lawsuit in June to end the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) ban on commercial hemp farming in the United States filed a notice of appeal today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit after the court dismissed their case last month.

Lawyers working on behalf of the farmers, Representative David Monson and Wayne Hauge, are appealing a number of issues. In particular, the lower court inexplicably ruled that hemp and marijuana are the "same," as the DEA has contended, and thus failed to properly consider the Commerce Clause argument that the plaintiffs raised -- that Congress cannot interfere with North Dakota's state-regulated hemp program. Scientific evidence clearly shows that industrial hemp, which includes the oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis that would have been grown pursuant to North Dakota law, is genetically distinct from the drug varieties of Cannabis and has absolutely no recreational drug effect.

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Even though the farmers' legal battle continues, the lawsuit prompted the DEA to respond to the North Dakota State University (NDSU) application for federal permission to grow industrial hemp for research purposes, which has languished for nearly a decade. University officials, however, say it could cost them more than $50,000 to install 10-foot-high fences and meet other strict DEA requirements such as high-powered lighting. NDSU officials are reviewing the DEA's proposal, and Vote Hemp is hopeful that an agreement can be reached before planting season gets under way. If an agreement between the DEA and NDSU is reached and ultimately signed, it would pave the way for agricultural hemp research and development in North Dakota. Such research is key to developing varieties of industrial hemp best suited for North Dakota's climate.

"We are happy this lawsuit is moving forward with an appeal," says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization working to bring industrial hemp farming back to the U.S. "We feel that the lower court's decision not only overlooks Congress's original legislative intent, but also fails to stand up for fundamental states' rights against overreaching federal regulation. Canada grows over 30,000 acres of industrial hemp annually without any law enforcement problems. In our federalist society, it is not the burden of North Dakota's citizens to ask Congress in Washington, D.C. to clear up its contradictory and confusing regulations concerning Cannabis; it is their right to grow industrial hemp pursuant to their own state law and the United States Constitution," adds Steenstra.

If ultimately successful, states across the nation will be free to implement their own hemp farming laws without fear of federal interference.

The suit is backed by Vote Hemp, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of industrial agricultural hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop.

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