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Proposal for ISU study of hemp
as crop approved by House panel

Cannabis plants grown for hemp contain less than
1 percent of the chemical that produces euphoric effects.

by Jonathan Roos, Register Staff Writer

State lawmakers want to know whether industrial hemp could become an alternative crop in Iowa.
A bill approved Monday by the House Agriculture Committee would authorize Iowa State University to conduct research on the production and marketing of hemp.  SimiIar legislation is pending in the Senate.

Both industrial hemp and marijuana are derived from cannabis plants, but those grown for hemp contain less than 1 percent of the chemical that produces euphoric effects.  Marijuana contains from 3 percent to 15 percent of the chemical.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, other states also are interested in studying the crop potential of industrial hemp, which can be used in the manufacture of cloth, ropes, paper, building materials and other products.

"We're asking for research to see how it might do in Iowa," said Rep. Effie Lee Boggess, R-Villisca.

Grown in World War II

As a matter of fact, industrial hemp was grown by Midwestern farmers during World War II to augment rope production for the U.S. Navy.

Though hemp products are legal, legal barriers against marijuana have fenced off hemp production, too.

The bill endorsed Monday by the House Agriculture Committee would exempt hemp research from Iowa's controlled substance law.  That bothered Rep. Keith Kreiman, D-Bloomfield.  "I think that's a pretty severe step," he said.

According to Boggess, Iowa State also would need waivers from the federal government.

Hemp production is legal in Canada as well as in many European countries, where growers receive subsidies for it.

The potential of hemp as an alternative crop in this country has aroused interest among farm organizations.

Rotation Crop

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, industrial hemp serves as a good rotation crop. All parts of the plant have economic uses and it can be grown under varied conditions.  But aside from legal obstacles, there also are some unanswered economic questions about hemp as a crop.  These include the cost of harvesting hemp and its profitability.

The House bill would authorize ISU to conduct research regarding the production of hemp seed, its feasibility as a "profitable" cash crop, farming practices, machinery and market conditions.

The university would be required to report its findings to the Legislature by January 1999.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 18-3 in favor of the measure, which awaits debate by the full House.

"If they want to do some research for us, we ought to give them our whole support," said Rep. Russell Teig, R-Jewell.

The Des Moines Register
Tuesday, March 11, 1997, Page 4M.

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This page last updated on 16 April 1999.