North Dakota up in smoke?


A North Dakota man aims to be the first hemp farmer in the United States. That is, the first one since the practice was made illegal in 1938 and only allowed again temporarily as part of the WWII war effort. After 10 years of recent effort by North Dakota lawmaker David Monson, he is now poised to receive a license to grow the crop beloved by sustainability advocates -- as long as he gets fingerprinted first.
Monson turned in an application Monday to the state Agriculture Department to become the nation's first licensed industrial hemp farmer along with a set of his fingerprints, which will be used for a background check to prove he is not a criminal. Hemp, a cousin of marijuana, does not have the drug's psychoactive properties however the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still has to give its permission before Monson, or anyone else, is allowed to grow industrial hemp. Law enforcement officials fear industrial hemp can shield illicit marijuana, although hemp supporters say the concern is unfounded with whom we agree. Weve told you about all things sturdy, sexy and hemp, so we hope such state legislative initiatives do not remain purely symbolic.

When the DEA smoke clears, North Dakota may be the first to break important farm ground. Six other states have also authorized industrial hemp farming, but yet to push their initiatives into action. Those others states are Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana and West Virginia. Last year, California lawmakers approved legislation that set out rules for industrial hemp production, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. The law asserted that the federal government lacked authority to regulate industrial hemp as a drug. Also, in 2005, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced legislation to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana in federal drug laws. It never came to a vote. Canada made it legal for farmers to grow the crop in March 1998. Last year, Canadian farmers planted 48,060 acres of hemp, government statistics say. Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the provinces along North Dakota's northern border, were Canada's biggest hemp producers.