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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CO: Hemp Bill Risks More Headaches With Feds
Title:US CO: Hemp Bill Risks More Headaches With Feds
Published On:2012-02-02
Source:Denver Post (CO)
Fetched On:2012-02-03 06:02:56

With a deadline looming at the end of this month in the most dramatic
federal-state showdown yet in Colorado over marijuana, a state
lawmaker has proposed a bill that would raise another cannabis clash.

Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, has introduced a bill to study using the
growing of industrial hemp to clean polluted soil, a process known as
phytoremediation. McKinley said there is some evidence that hemp
plants can suck toxic substances out of the ground.

"There's not a whole lot known about it," he said. "So, this is a
pilot program to study it."

Growing hemp, though, is illegal under federal law without approval
from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which rarely grants
permission. Hemp and marijuana are taxonomically identical versions
of cannabis plants.

Although hemp advocates argue that hemp and marijuana are the same in
the way that Pomeranians and St. Bernards are, a DEA spokeswoman said
the growing of any cannabis plant without DEA approval is a felony.

"State law provides no immunity to private persons or state officials
who violate federal law," DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden wrote in an e-mail.

That, however, doesn't ruffle McKinley. His bill - which is
co-sponsored by House Agriculture Committee chairman Rep. Jerry
Sonnenberg, R-Sterling - wouldn't even require researchers to seek
federal approval before putting plants in the ground.

"If we worried about what the feds were going to do, we wouldn't get
anything done," McKinley said. "We just have to go do it ourselves
and see what happens."

Colorado is already in something of a stare-down with the federal
government over the state's medical-marijuana laws. Last month,
federal prosecutors sent letters to 23 dispensaries operating in
compliance with state law but within 1,000 feet of a school. The
dispensaries were given until Feb. 27 to close or face federal
criminal or civil punishment.

Hemp advocates have long extolled the virtue of the plant as an
agricultural product.

Unlike marijuana, hemp contains very little THC, the chemical that
creates marijuana's high. But, because of the federal prohibitions,
all hemp products currently in the U.S. - from hemp clothing to hemp
rope to hemp seeds in granola - come from imported sources.

Tom Murphy, the national outreach director for Vote Hemp, said he
knows of no one growing industrial hemp legally in the United States.

David West - who, as head of the now-defunct Hawaii Industrial Hemp
Research Project, was one of the few people ever to receive DEA
approval to grow cannabis - said the process to obtain a license is
prohibitively difficult.

"They want to grow it out there?" West said when told of McKinley's
bill. "There's a fat chance that's going to happen."
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