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Schwarzenegger vetoes hemp

By Clarisse Douaud , 16-Oct-2007

Hemp advocates are angered by Governor Schwarzenegger's veto of an industrial hemp bill that would have allowed local farmers to legally produce and supply the nutritious seed.

Californian food manufacturers must currently import hemp raw materials if they want to use them. The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, AB 684, would have established a five-year pilot project in four counties to allow farmers to legally supply California manufacturers that currently must import hemp raw materials. This bill would have permitted California to follow North Dakota's lead as being the only state where farming industrial hemp is permitted. Commonly associated with marijuana, hemp seed has been repeatedly banned for production in the US. However, the seed has healthy benefits and favors environmentally-friendly farming. Californian manufacturers say they will not be discouraged by the veto. "At a time when resources are running low and polar caps are melting, the general public is moving towards healthy and sustainable solutions," said John Roulac, founder of California hemp food manufacturer Nutiva. "Regardless of what any politician says or does, we will just keep building a billion-dollar hemp foods marketplace." With about 25 percent protein, whole hemp seed is second only to soybean in terms of complete protein content. Hemp is suitable for consumers wanting to support environmental issues, because it is a crop that requires little water, no herbicides and is said to stimulate soil. However, it has not reached its full market potential in part owing to its ostracized kin, the marijuana plant. While hemp belongs to the same species as marijuana, cannabis sativa L, it only has minimal quantities of the active drug compound, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). AB 684 would have stipulated that the cultivation of industrial hemp is legal only on the condition it contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Hemp foods became legal in the US in 2001, production of the seed is still illegal across most states. This has stimulated Canadian production of the seed - the US buys about 90 percent of its crop and derivatives, according to Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. In turn, Californian businesses spend millions of dollars each year importing hemp from Canada, China and Europe. Imports of hemp seed from Canada alone grew 300 percent between 2006 and 2007. The entire North American hemp market now exceeds an estimated $300m in annual retail sales. The legislation was jointly authored by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno and Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. Hemp advocates, under the group "Vote hemp", state that more than thirty industrialized nations grow industrial hemp, and many export it to the US. Incredibly, they say, hemp is the only crop that is legal for Americans to import yet illegal to grow.

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