Senators Tell DEA to Stop Messing With State Hemp Crops

Provisions prevent feds from spending on interference with state hemp-farming programs or hemp crop transport.


American Hemp/Facebook

American-grown hemp may get another boost from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Last Friday, the Kentucky Republican added a provision to the agriculture appropriations bill to help hemp farmers transport crops across state lines sans federal interference. "Kentucky's industrial hemp pilot programs continue to prosper," said McConnell, "and I want to make sure our legal hemp producers can safely transport their crops between states, including to states that maintain processing facilities, so they can fully capitalize on the commercial potential for this commodity."

Kentucky has been running an industrial hemp pilot program since last year, when the 2014 Farm Bill gave universities and state agricultural commissioners authority to grow hemp for the first time in more than half a century. Cultivating the plant on American soil was banned in 1937—owing to nothing more than hemp being in the same plant family as marijuana—and hemp's growth is still only permitted by these limited actors.

This is a shame, since hemp has all sorts of interesting potential as a building material, textile, food, cooking oil, cosmetic ingredient, and fuel source. The market for hemp seed and fiber—all imported right now—is already $600 million a year in America. Unlike marijuana, hemp does not have psychoactive properties.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota recently identified a single gene responsible for the differences between the Cannabis cousins. Plant biologist and study author George Weiblen hopes the discovery of may help hemp producers' in their quest to define the two as legally distinct. As it stands, it's even hard for researchers to study hemp because of its classification as a Schedule One controlled substance—Weiblen's lab is one of the few in the country with a federal clearance to study Cannabis of any sort, including hemp.

"It's a plant of major economic importance," said Weiblen, "that is very poorly understood scientifically. With this study, we have indisputable evidence for a genetic basis of differences among Cannabis varieties, further challenging the position that all Cannabis should be regulated as a drug."

Even after the Farm Bill authorized industrial hemp farming last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still tried to obstruct state efforts. In May 2014, "Customs and Border Patrol agents, acting under instructions from the DEA, seized 250 pounds of hemp seeds from Italy and China intended for pilot farming projects in Kentucky," Jacob Sullum noted. "The feds backed down only after Kentucky's agriculture commissioner filed a lawsuit."

Last month, McConnell worked with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to insert language into the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that bars the DEA from interfering with state hemp-growing programs. The language McConnell added to the fiscal year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill bars the federal government from spending any money to stop the "transportation, processing, sale, or use of industrial hemp… within or outside the State in which the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated." Both bills have passed the Senate Appropriations committee and should go to the Senate floor soon, through the appropriations process may be stalled by partisan disagreements. 

At least fourteen states  (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia) have now established commercial industrial hemp programs and seven (Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, and Utah) have passed laws allowing hemp growth for agricultural or academic research purposes. In January, McConnell and fellow Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill to amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to entirely exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana," but that legislation has yet to go anywhere.

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  1. Who does the legislative branch think it is to tell the executive how to conduct the drug war?

    1. Congress should secede.

      1. I didn’t know you were a Rebel-flag-waving, closed-border-lovin’, Southern, teathuglihadiracist.

        Good to know.

        *crosses ProL off Christmas card list*

        1. Perhaps he meant succeed .

        2. I heard he has a shotgun and rifle and a 4 wheel drive also

          1. Is his shotgun one o’ them scary black, fully-automatic assault shotgun rifle Terminator things with a….clip and a silencer and stuff? I bet it is. He’s scary, and no one NEEDS one of those.

            1. Yep, and he makes his own wine and own smoke too, so I heard

              1. Ain’t too many things that ol’ boy can’t do.

            2. It has the shoulder thing that goes up and everything!

            3. I can catch cat fish from dusk till dawn

          2. So you’re saying that he will survive?

            1. A trot line helps.

        3. Not sure about those other adjectives, but I am Southern. I should be sent to one of Wes Clark’s camps.

  2. being in the same plant family


    1. Yeah, I love the cis-genus-specieism.

      Now we see the cis-genus-specieism inherent in the system!!

      Help! Help! My plants are bein’ repressed!

    2. Wouldn’t they be in the same kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, and genus?

      1. Hey, they’re both lifeforms. INFORMATIVE!

        1. When the singularity happens, will there be digital pot?

          1. Of course.

      2. Yes. there are a few (fairly) distinct species, and many : ) specific cultivars.

  3. I just had an idea for a new Amendment. Every ~24 years or so every federal law becomes invalid and needs to be re-authorized individually (no blanket re-authorization, but a separate vote with full debate on each and every in the federal register, including any authorizations for agencies and departments) by both houses, otherwise it simply gets wiped from the books. The process can start as early as two years before the 24 year mark, but no earlier (want to gum up the works as much as possible), and it doesn’t matter how recently the law was passed. We do it for the first time now and then 24 years after that every law is up for review.

    Sort of in keeping with Jefferson’s(?) notion of sort of redoing the government every generation or so.

    1. It’s so cute when you act as if there’s hope 🙂

      Seriously – excellent idea, I might even be more inclined to 10 or 15 years. 24 years is a damned long time.

      1. I’m naturally optimistic. Or naive. They are very closely related concepts.

        24 years seemed like a decent number because it divides evenly into 2, 4, and 6, and is roughly one generation long. I’d also be down with 18 as that is the age of franchise. Or 16 because it is a power of 2. I don’t really like odd numbers.

        1. Seven. I like seven.

          1. I’m a fives and zeros guy from so many years of compensation planning. It’s burned into my brain now, so that’s where that comes from.

            My favorite number is 6, and that goes into 24 neatly, so I can live with that.

            /useless information

          2. Seven. I like seven.

            How about Soda?

        2. I’m naturally optimistic. Or naive. They are very closely related concepts.

          Subjective interpretations of the same concept?

          1. Probably. Nice to see someone optimistic about this. I was hoping for a simple new law requires an old law to be repealed at the same time — but they would game that by just doing a two-fer (pass a new law and a mod of the old low while repealing the old one).

    2. Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right. It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.”

      –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

      1. I know he was a slave owner, but my God did he have the dangers of government pegged down to a “T”.

    3. I’m sure the Nazgul would interpret that to mean blanket authorizations are OK, and when that became a pain in the ass they’d interpret it to mean laws never become invalid.

      1. It’s called a deeming.

    4. A supermajority should also be required to renew a law. Possibly to pass a law as well.

      1. I like Heinlein’s bicameral legislature in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. One house passes laws while the other repeals them. It takes 2/3 to pass laws, and 1/3 to repeal them. So for something to pass it better have a lot of support, and if something offends a mere third, then it isn’t worthy.

        The thing that is broken in our government is that there is no mechanism for repeal. Checks and Balances have become Rubber Stamps.

      2. Whatever was required to pass it in the first place should be required to pass it again. As I think about it more, conceptually it shouldn’t be thought of as a re-authorization. It should be thought of as hard end to all the laws, and the start of a completely new (if superficially identical) set.

    5. No no no. Way too long and way too easy to quibble over and workaroound.

      1. Every law, rule, regulation, and document expires within one year of being enacted.

      2. Any one can challenge any such law, rule, regulation, etc for being defective: vague; unclear; confusing; internally inconsistent with itself or externally inconsistent with any other law, rule, regulation, etc; inconsistent or rare enforcement, including conflicting or inconsistent verdicts; and pretty much anything else any ordinary jury can find defective with it.

      3. Any such law, rule, regulation, etc which is found defective is voided in its entirety, immediately. No appeal. the very fact that some jury found it defective means that an appeal which reversed it would be a clear sign the law was unclear, confusing, and inconsistent.

      Notice that if any legislature or agency thought to combine lots of laws, rules, and regulations into one single omnibus version for easy renewal, it would void the entire omnibus version for any single defect. It is very self-enforcing.

      1. I like it. Also, any legislator who proposes a new law must also put forth an existing law that will be replaced by the new one.

    6. The more I think of this idea, the more I like it.

      On July 4 in the 24th year (or whatever), the current legislators, president and cabinet-level secretaries, and Supreme Court justices would don sackcloth and present the old federal register to the people to be burned. Copies could be produced and burned at various Independence Day celebrations.

      1. We laugh, but the mystical ceremony element would likely be the thing that convinced most people to do it.

    7. Sort of in keeping with Jefferson’s(?) notion of sort of redoing the government every generation or so.

      That proposal sounds great, but it’s inherently flawed. You assume the words on a page actually have meaningful value, and that wiping them away creates another hurdle for the tyrant. In reality, Rule of Law is just Rule of Man with a few guidelines attached. We could wipe out every law every year, and we’d still live in an authoritarian shithole. The people are the problem, not the process.

      1. I agree and I disagree. The words on a page are meaningless unless people actually give them meaning through action. But putting those words on a page – articulating them and symbolically committing to them – helps to give the words meaning in the eyes of a lot of people.

        It’s not easy to get people to defend words that are written on a piece of paper, but it’s even more difficult to get people to defend ideas that aren’t even written down at all.

    8. Texas has a pretty decent beginning on that process – the Sunset Advisory Commission. It’s not perfect, but it is a start.

    9. Eh, call me a pessimist or a cynic: there are a lot of mind-boggingly stupid laws out there that are 100+ years old but haven’t been enforced for decades because people simply forgot about them. I can see this law renewal proposal backfiring as people rediscover horrible old laws and the “law and order” types breath brimstone to keep them on the books…with the added horror that they’ll now be enforced.

    10. Agreed.

  4. They should ban water too.It’s a main component of a bong.

    1. Gott two words for you – Mon. Ster.


      I miss the old “Double Bubble” from college. We broke it (is there anything better than bong water all over your carpet? ANYTHING? Glued it back together, of course. Bong hits tasted like Crazy Glue? for a LONG time after that – I’m sure my lungs are still thanking me for introducing them to those chemicals.

      Then there was The Eight Footer – made out of a protective tube for an 8 ft. flourescent lamp. You had to climb up into the loft in our room to draw – one guy drew, and you’d see the smoke climb up the tube, then the next guy got on it, said “GO!”, and you released the carb at the bottom – WHOOSH! Eight feet of whatever we was smokin’ – BAM! THAT was a fucking rush!

      Ohhhh – I wish I was 20 again….

      *starts to cry*

      1. *slow claps*

        That’s impressive, sir. An eight foot draw? Jesu Cristi.

      2. Socialist. We had to fill the bong load ourselves.

  5. Scientists at the University of Minnesota recently identified a single gene responsible for the differences between the Cannabis cousins.

    Please be certain to keep the good gene safe.

  6. Wait, hemp itself is actually Schedule 1???

    1. Sounds like it is schedule FYTW.

      by the way, this is the only honest thing I’ve seen McConnell do since he came to office.

  7. What is the legal status of GMO Hemp?

  8. This is just too hard for our poor drug enforcement warriors! I mean if cops can’t tell the difference between maryjane and tomatoes, how are they supposed to tell the difference between hemp and pot?

    /formerly known as BuSab Agent

  9. Isn’t it bizarre to have these statutory provisions making it illegal to spend $ to enforce some aspect of the statute, rather than simply making the activity against which such forbidden enforcement is directed legal? Is there some legal reason for their having to leave in a provision saying X is illegal & another saying no $ may be spent to enforce that provision, rather than striking it from the books?

    Is it about treaty oblig’ns? Isn’t that a ridiculous weasel, saying they’re complying with a treaty saying X has to be illegal, while forbidding its enforcement?

  10. The D.E.A. and F.D.A. have become the U.S. equivalent of Gestapo S.S.. The D.E.A. was a bad idea to start with and has only gotten worse ever sense. States are able to do their job. They don’t need the D.E.A. I don’t need the D.E.A. You don’t need the D.E.A. .Nobody needs the D.E.A. They are misappropriating and commandeering billions of dollars of public funds that America can no longer justify..Their funding needs to be cut by,at least, ninety-five percent and all need to be restructured to a much smaller and much more restrained gang of Authoritarian sociopaths.. This is a group of renegade law enforcement completely out-of-control .and way over-the-top.They are using the war on drugs as a smokescreen and a ruse to subvert our Civil and Human rights and increasingly more as a ruse to seize cash and property in their war on the American people.Also, through gross incompetence, have made it nearly impossible for a pain sufferer to get treatment without being thrown in jail.

  11. Even psychopaths need jobs. Maybe we should offer them a Golden Parachute pension.

  12. Hemp is a schedule 1 drug? Dam. I should go down to the US Archives and make a citizens arrest and re-possess the US Constitution since that wretched document was written on devil weed paper. They aren’t currently using it anyways.

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