Frustrated Farmers Jailed

Frustrated hemp farmers dug up the lawn of DEA headquarters this morning -- and were promptly tossed in the pokey

Hemp in Manitoba, Canada
Hemp in Manitoba, Canada (by Photo by Scott T. Samson)

Members of the Hemp Industries Association and two aspiring hemp farmers were arrested this morning for digging up the lawn at the Virginia headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Administration where the group was trying to plant industrial hemp seeds.

Among those arrested is fourth-generation North Dakota farmer Wayne Hauge, who is licensed by his home state to grow the crop, but whose efforts to do so have been stymied by DEA interference in the state's efforts to reauthorize farmers to cultivate the environmentally friendly plant. Hauge and fellow NoDak farmer David Monson – who is also a Republican state lawmaker – have sued the DEA, arguing that oversight of industrial hemp, marijuana's non-narcotic cousin, is not within their purview and that the agency has no right to interfere with its intrastate cultivation.

Indeed, although the U.S. is the world's largest consumer of hemp containing goods (everything from clothing and food to car parts and renewable fuels), it is the only industrialized nation where the crop is not legally grown. As a result, all hemp goods sold here must come from imported crops – some from as close as Canada, some from as far away as China. The crop was grown legally here for centuries, but ultimately – through oversight, misunderstanding, or worse – became a victim in the nation's increasingly prohibitionist War on Drugs. "In recent years there has been strong growth in demand for hemp in the U.S., but the American farmer is being left out while Canadian, European and Chinese farmers fill the void created by outdated federal policy," Hauge said.

Five were arrested during today's first act of civil disobedience organized by hemp proponents – including HIA President Steve Levine, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps President David Bronner, and Vermont farmer Will Allen. (Vermont re-legalized hemp farming last year.) The group are simply tired with federal intervention in state matters – indeed, in a press statement Vote Hemp, the industry's lobbying arm, noted that earlier this year President Barack Obama made a statement to federal agencies telling them to be mindful of messing in state affairs: "Executive departments and agencies should be mindful that in our federal system, the citizens of the several States have distinctive circumstances and values, and that in many instances it is appropriate for them to apply to themselves rules and principles that reflect these circumstances and values," Obama wrote in a May memo. "The purpose of this memorandum is to state the general policy of my Administration that preemption of State law by executive departments and agenceis should be undertaken only with full consideration of the legitimate perogatives of the States and with a sufficient legal basis for preemption." That, hemp advocates argue, has not happened in the case of the DEA and the hemp farmers. And Bronner, who is also Vote Hemp's director, said it is time for the DEA to mind Obama's words. "In this difficult economy, we can no longer indulge the DEA's self-serving hemp hysteria."

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Marijuana, War on Drugs, DEA, Industrial Hemp

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