Farmers Want Free Market for Hemp
South Dakota Farmers Union Unanimously Endorses Industrial Hemp Initiative
The US federal government is trying to block U.S. farmers from cultivating hemp, while other countries allow a free market for hemp. We in the US lag behind and are losing international competitiveness and jobs because of the federal government's intervention against hemp cultivation. But here is some good free market news!
The South Dakota Farmers Union is now supporting the months-old petition drive to legalize industrial hemp production in that heavily agricultural state. The group, which represents 8,000 South Dakota farmers, voted unanimously to endorse the effort organized by SoDak NORML (http://www.sodaknorml.org), the state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
"The farmers already supported hemp," said Bob Newland, head of SoDak NORML, "All they needed was somebody to go and ask them," he told DRCNet. "I addressed their resolution committee and outlined the issues: the market for hemp, the import restrictions and the intransigence of the DEA. What was really remarkable is that there was not a single voice of dissent," he added.
By endorsing the petition, the Farmers Union is encouraging its members to add their signatures, state Rep. Frank Kloucek told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. "But we're not forcing them to do anything," he said. "I don't see any problem with industrial hemp. We're already importing it from all over the world. The twine we buy comes from Brazil."
The Farmers Union endorsement should be a boost to the petition drive, which began in May. Petition circulators have so far gathered about 4,800 signatures, but they need to gather 16,000 by next May to meet state requirements and have a safety margin for possible invalid signatures.
"Before this, there were only a handful of 'visible wackos' like me," Newland told DRCNet, "and the powers that be didn't have to give us any serious attention. Now, we have the endorsement of an 8,000 member farmers' grouping. Not only does that provide clout, but the Farmers Union will have members active in circulating the petition."
The measure would allow the planting, harvesting, possession and sale of industrial hemp in South Dakota, provided it contains no more than 1% THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. More than 20 other states are pursuing similar measures, despite strong opposition from anti-freedom groups, federal and state law enforcement officials.
Despite being only about one-quarter of the way to the signature- gathering goal, Newland is optimistic. "We will have no problem achieving the numbers we need," he vowed. "Petitions usually don't attract much attention until you get close to the deadline. This will really snowball in the next few months," he said.
Newland knows something about successful petition drives. He was a driving force behind the South Dakota Common Sense Justice Amendment, which would amend the state constitution to allow criminal defendants "to argue the merits, validity, and applicability of the law, including the sentencing laws," during their trials. This incendiary measure, which would allow defendants to seek to convince juries not to convict because a law is unjust, will be on the South Dakota ballot in November 2002.
This story comes from our friends at DRCNet.org
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