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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Barney Frank And Ron Paul Find Common Ground: HR 1866

As Originally Posted to SFGate.com

Liberal Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who made a fine show in the GOP presidential primaries last year, find common ground today on hemp farming:

Their new bill, "The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 otherwise known as HR 1866, would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. They claim nine other sponsors, nearly equally divided between the parties.

"It is unfortunate that the federal government has stood in the way of American farmers, including many who are struggling to make ends meet, from competing in the global industrial hemp market," said Paul, adding that some of the Founding Fathers who grew hemp themselves "would surely find that federal restrictions on farmers growing a safe and profitable crop on their own land are inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of a limited, restrained federal government."

Eric Steenstra, president of the group "Vote Hemp" added that with all the recent discussion about Mexican drug wars, "it is surprising that the tragedy of American hemp farming hasn't come up as a no-brainer for reform," calling the plant "a versatile, environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown here for over 50 years because of a politicized interpretation of the nation's drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Administration. President Obama should direct the DEA to stop confusing industrial hemp with its genetically distinct cousin, marijuana." He said jobs "would be created overnight, as there are numerous U.S. companies that now have no choice but to import hemp raw materials worth many millions of dollars per year."

According to Vote Hemp, U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp "include Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a California company who manufactures the number-one-selling natural soap, and FlexForm Technologies, an Indiana company whose natural fiber materials are used in over two million cars on the road today. Hemp food manufacturers, such as French Meadow Bakery, Hempzels, Living Harvest, Nature's Path and Nutiva, now make their products from Canadian hemp. Although hemp now grows wild across the U.S., a vestige of centuries of hemp farming here, the hemp for these products must be imported. Hemp clothing is made around the world by well-known brands such as Patagonia, Bono's Edun and Giorgio Armani."

Under current drug policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but U.S. farmers are not allowed to grow it. "The DEA has taken the Controlled Substances Act's antiquated definition of marijuana out of context and used it as an excuse to ban industrial hemp farming," Steenstra said.