If, as the governor recently asserted, California is both the new Athens and the new Sparta, where the future of America is busily being created, then what the hell is North Dakota? Because in one patch of the future, North Dakota is set to leave California in the dust.
The state best known for frostbite, Fargo, and the Lawrence Welk Birthplace museum (not to be confused the Lawrence Welk Museum in Escondido), is set to become to the first state to have a farmer growing hemp. Not the sort of hemp that makes certain movies watchable, of course, but its sober, hardworking cousin.
Last month, the [North Dakota] Agriculture Department finished its work on rules farmers may use to grow industrial hemp, a cousin of marijuana that does not have the drug's hallucinogenic properties. The sturdy, fibrous plant is used to make an assortment of products, ranging from paper, rope and lotions to car panels, carpet backing and animal bedding.
Applicants must provide latitude and longitude coordinates for their proposed hemp fields, furnish fingerprints and pay at least $202 in fees, including $37 to cover the cost of criminal record checks.
[State Agriculture Commissioner Roger] Johnson said the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still must give its permission before Monson, or anyone else, may grow industrial hemp.
"That is going to be a major hurdle," Johnson said.
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Actually, it may not be that major a hurdle. Because the Monson in question-- David Monson, the farmer who has completed the state application process-- isn't just some random dirty beatnik with hemp dreams, he's a member of the North Dakota state legislature. Presumably that will force the DEA to take the application seriously. Still, the DEA is on the alert for any beatnik-ish tendencies in the chillier Dakota.
A DEA spokesman has said North Dakota applications to grow industrial hemp will be reviewed, and Johnson said North Dakota's rules were developed with the agency's concerns in mind. Law enforcement officials fear industrial hemp can shield illicit marijuana, although hemp supporters say the concern is unfounded.
To allay those fears, Monson will have to cough up $2,293 for the DEA's annual registration fee, "which is nonrefundable even if the agency does not grant permission to grow industrial hemp." The DEA licensing process should be completed in about a month.
You may remember that last year the California legislature passed a bill to allow the farming of industrial hemp (cosponsored by local Christian soldier Chuck Devore, no less), but that bill was veto by the future-loving governor. It remains to be seen what the new Athens/Sparta will do to catch up with a state that until now has had little to boast of in the nation-leading category other than the Largest Historical Quilt and the tallest statue (30 ft.) of a turtle riding a snowmobile. (A giant turtle riding a snowmobile? Apparently the other sort of hemp is also available in North Dakota.)