Washington, DC: The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to Congressional Resource Service (CRS) report published last week. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food.
"In all, more than 30 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America grow hemp," the report states, adding that the European Union instituted a subsidy program in the 1990s for hemp fiber production. "The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop."
Federal law makes no distinctions between cannabis and industrial hemp, and makes it illegal to grow hemp without a license from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to the CRS, "The DEA has been unwilling to grant licenses for growing small plots of hemp for research purposes," even when such research is authorized by state law, because the agency believes that doing so would "send the wrong message to the American public concerning the government's position on drugs." As an example, the report notes that the DEA "has still not ruled on an application submitted in 1999 by a North Dakota researcher" to grow a trial plot of hemp in compliance with state law. More than a dozen states have enacted laws authorizing the licensed cultivation of hemp for research purposes.
"The federal ban on hemp cultivation and production is a direct outgrowth of the government's absurd war on cannabis," NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. "This report should help to galvanize support among US farmers, industrialists, and environmentalists for the legalization and regulation of hemp as an agricultural commodity."
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. The CRS report, entitled "Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity," is available online at: