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Today's Top News
Farmers Try to Plant Hemp at DEA Office, Arrested
BISMARCK, N.D. — A 51-year-old grandfather who grows garbanzo beans and other crops in northwestern North Dakota was among the protesters arrested for planting hemp seeds on the lawn of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration offices.
Wayne Hauge and five other people were arrested Tuesday for trespassing and part of a group of about 20 protesting the ban on growing hemp, said authorities in Arlington, Va. Hemp, which is used to make paper, lotion and other products, is related to the illegal drug marijuana.
Proponents argue it contains too little of the mind-altering chemical THC to make people high.
Hauge and David Monson, a Republican state legislator and farmer from Osnabrock, received the North Dakota's first state licenses to grow industrial hemp in 2007, but they've never received approval from the DEA, which considers hemp a drug. They've sued the DEA, and their case has been before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for about a year after a federal judge in Bismarck dismissed it and told the farmers to take their case to Congress.
"You might say this is outside of my normal character, and I don't intend to make it a practice," Hauge said in a telephone interview, after spending about five hours in jail. "My interest here was to show that hemp is just a crop. Hemp is not a drug."
The Hemp Industries Association, which has been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to allow the growing of hemp for industrial uses, said it's the first time the protesters engaged in civil disobedience.
DEA officials did not return telephone calls for comment Tuesday.
David Bronner, president of Escondido, Calif.-based Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, said his company has used hemp for a decade in its products. The company imports hemp from Europe and Canada, but Bronner said he would like to buy it from U.S. farmers.
"With the weak dollar and the high cost of freight, it's something we should be able to source in the U.S.," said Bronner, who invited Hauge to Tuesday's demonstration.
Bronner said he, Hauge and four others dug several holes on the lawn of the DEA headquarters and planted about 1,000 hemp seeds. Hauge was one of two farmers arrested. The other was Will Allen of East Thetford, Vt.
"He dug a better hole than anyone," Bronner said of Hauge.
Hauge and Allen's trip was paid for by Vote Hemp, the lobbying arm of the hemp industry.
Hauge, who lives in Ray, a town of about 500 people, still has 400 acres of beans to harvest at home. He would like to add hemp to his other crops, which include lentils, barley and durum, and said he and other hemp proponents are frustrated by the lack of progress in legalization.
"My interest has been and will always be raising it for a crop, as part of my rotation," said Hauge, who also is an accountant.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, who pushed for legalizing the growing of industrial hemp in the U.S. while serving as North Dakota's agriculture commissioner, said he was surprised by Hauge's arrest.
"Wow, he didn't strike me as the kind of guy who'd wind up in jail," Johnson said. "He's a rational kind of guy. He's an accountant, for crying out loud, and a farmer."
The National Farmers Union has not taken a position on hemp. But Johnson said he still believes U.S. farmers should be allowed to plant it.
"We still have folks in high places that seem to think hemp and marijuana are the same thing — they aren't," Johnson said. "We need to get past that."