Last week, two North Dakota farmers brought a lawsuit before the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Paul seeking to legalize the domestic cultivation of hemp, which, despite having zero psychoactive properties, is illegal to grow on U.S. soil (take a bow, petrochemical lobbyists, you clever scamps!)
An unusually versatile crop, hemp fiber has long been used in the production of paper, clothing, biodiesel, and hipster fashion accessories.
The farmers and their attorney contend that hemp is chemically distinct from marijuana and therefore should not be subject to the same federal ban— a position substantiated by hard science, but so far resisted by the feds.
“Under federal law, hemp and marijuana are the same thing,” says Garrison Courtney, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Agency. “We can’t pick and choose which laws to observe. Whatever law is on the books, we must enforce.”
In 1999, North Dakota became the first state to legalize the cultivation of hemp. The court's decision, which isn't expected until early next year, will decide whether federal agencies (DEA) can prosecute state-licensed farmers who grow hemp pursuant to North Dakota law.