------------------------------------------------------------------- Cancer Victim's Legacy Helping Pot Law Survive (Santa Clara Prosecutor Karyn Sinunu Hammers Out County's Policy On 11362.5) Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 00:16:42 -0800 From: Majordomo@mapinc.org Subject: DND: US CA: Cancer Victim's Legacy Helping Pot Law Survive ] From: Marcus-Mermelstein Family
] Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 16:39:40 -0800 Source: San Jose Mercury News Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 Author: Sue Hutchison at the Mercury News, 310 University Ave., Palo Alto, Calif. 94301, or e-mail SHutchison@sjmercury.com CANCER VICTIM'S LEGACY HELPING POT LAW SURVIVE IT'S BEEN more than a year since cancer killed Karyn Sinunu's pal Bernie. They'd been friends for a quarter-century, since they were next-door neighbors consulting and commiserating over their kids' scraped knees and class field trips. They were friends long before Sinunu became assistant district attorney for Santa Clara County and before Bernie learned she'd have to raise her four daughters while battling a malignancy so vicious her entire stomach would be removed before it was all over at age 52. Sinunu doesn't mention Bernie's last name when she talks about her publicly. But she thinks it's important to talk about her because Bernie taught Sinunu something that's made the last days of life a little easier for terminally ill people in this county. Like a lot of prosecutors, Sinunu had taken a dim view of Proposition 215, the ballot measure to legalize medicinal marijuana. But when her buddy Bernie, a PTA mom who rarely had even a glass of wine, began smoking pot in the final months of her life, Sinunu reconsidered her position. When she saw that marijuana was the only thing that could ease Bernie's crippling bouts of nausea long enough to enjoy the last days with her family, Sinunu began to see Proposition 215 very differently than other California prosecutors, including the attorney general. SHE found that as one of Bernie's many friends in law enforcement, she didn't have much of a moral conflict about Bernie's smoking pot. The doctors had recommended it, but Sinunu didn't know where Bernie got it. And she didn't ask. ``Bernie was a mom from another era. To see her in those last days was like watching June Cleaver toking up,'' Sinunu said when I spoke with her in her office on Christmas Eve. ``I had thought 215 was bogus. But when I saw marijuana was the only thing that made Bernie feel better, I was ashamed.'' And that has a lot to do with why this is one of the few counties enlightened enough not to treat medicinal marijuana smokers like dope fiends. It has a lot to do with why Sinunu had AIDS patient Ed Willis' confiscated pot plants returned to his Mountain View home last spring because he had them on doctor's orders. WHEN Proposition 215 passed last year, District Attorney George Kennedy, who also knew Bernie, asked Sinunu to hammer out the county's policy on complying with the law. And what they learned from Bernie has meant the cannabis club on Meridian Avenue has not been hounded out of existence by San Jose police, despite an appeals court ruling this month banning the sale of marijuana to patients. ``That ruling was based on what goes on at the San Francisco marijuana club,'' Sinunu said. ``People are not smoking at the (San Jose) club or selling marijuana on the street. In fact, they've even turned in a couple of people to us who had phony doctors' notes.'' Politicians and prosecutors have gotten a lot of family-values mileage out of trumpeting a tough, uncompromising approach to the ``war on drugs.'' Maybe that's why it took a June Cleaver-style homemaker to inspire a humane compromise. ``Hey, if people deal pot in St. James Park, we're going to prosecute,'' Sinunu said. ``But some drugs do have their place. It's a public health issue.'' And when Sinunu comes up against someone who doesn't think so, she talks about Bernie. ``I remember one time when she told me, `I couldn't get my marijuana and it ruined my whole day,' '' Sinunu said, her voice hushed. ``When you're dying, a day is a long time.''
------------------------------------------------------------------- Anti-Smoking Crusade Is Just A Witch Hunt (California's New Ban On Smoking In Bars Prompts Claremont Scholar To Quote From 'The Economist') From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: US CA: OPED: Anti-Smoking Crusade is Just a Witch Hunt ] From: Marcus-Mermelstein Family
Source: San Jose Mercury News Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 [Editor's Note: This editorial appeared the same day in the 'Orange County Register' under the headline, "Where There's Smoke, There's Do-Gooders' Fire."] Author: "William A. Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. He wrote this for the Newspaper Enterprise Association." ANTI-SMOKING CRUSADE IS JUST A WITCH HUNT On Jan. 1, California -- America's bellwether for social experiments -- becomes the first state in the union to ban smoking in bars. Together with earlier prohibitions against smoking in other public places, the new law makes it effectively impossible for the 25 percent of Californians who smoke to do so anywhere in the state save inside their own homes or in the great outdoors. Ordinarily, California is a pretty laid-back place. All sorts of behavior that might stir controversy elsewhere is genially allowed, or even welcomed. Last year the voters legalized the sale and possession of marijuana ``for medicinal purposes'' under a standard so broad that any pothead who can persuade a friend to recommend it to cure a headache can buy a joint and light up. And not long ago it took a last-ditch stand by the business interests of San Francisco to keep its board of supervisors from putting up signs at the entrances to the city welcoming gays and lesbians. But on the subject of tobacco, Californians have hearts of stone. Just before Jan. 1, placards hailing the bar ban went up all over the place proclaiming grimly, ``It's about health. It's about time.'' The snowballing national hysteria over smoking has at last enabled me to understand what I had previously never been able to fathom: the psychopathology of the famous trials in colonial Salem, Mass., which resulted in 19 people (mostly women) being hanged as witches. The citizens of Salem knew that Satan was formidably powerful, and that individuals sometimes voluntarily threw in their lot with him. What could be more exciting than to identify these people? What could be more exhilarating than to extinguish them? Yet the high-minded rectitude of the whole effort was unassailable. Similarly with the battle against smoking. It began as a quite reasonable warning to smokers that they were running a risk to their own health. But soon it escalated: Smokers were accused, on the thinnest of evidence, of killing nonsmokers through ``passive smoking.'' Cigarette manufacturers were demonized as murderers. The tobacco industry was forced to agree to pay more than $300 billion to state governments (and their lawyers) in return for exemption from individual liability lawsuits. Small wonder that Britain's respected Economist magazine has begun to feel uneasy about this avalanche of high-minded hatred. In a long and thoughtful essay (by a nonsmoker) in its Dec. 20 issue, it warns that ``the attack on tobacco has crossed the admittedly fuzzy line that distinguishes moral enthusiasm from illiberal vindictiveness, and at such a time good fun should yield to good thinking.'' Patiently the Economist reviews the arguments: the risk to the smoker (well-known, and a matter of choice, like drinking or motorcycling); to others, through ``passive smoking'' (``evidence of medical harm from the stray wisp of smoke in a workplace or restaurant remains vanishingly thin'' - and easily solved by segregating the smokers); to society, which must pay for their medical care (but they actually save society money, by dying earlier); the addictiveness of nicotine (perhaps, but ``There are today as many people who have quit smoking as there are people who smoke''); and finally, protection of the young (justifiable up to a point, but ``since 1992 teenage smoking has risen in America even as the overall rate has fallen, a fact that anti-smoking hysteria may partly explain''). Soberly the Economist concludes, ``Because they are nursing their dudgeon and savoring their victories rather than thinking with care, anti-smokers believe themselves to be upholding liberal social principles when, in fact, they are traducing them.'' But such thoughtful protests wouldn't have stopped the virtuous citizens of Salem from extirpating the evil right under their noses, and it won't stop the anti-smokers either. Doing good is just too much fun.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Editorial - Don't Drink And Drive (Drunken Driving Killed 17,126 People In The United States In 1996) From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: US:CA: Editorial: Don't Drink And Drive ] From: "Frank S. World"
Source: San Francisco Chronicle Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 Website: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/ EDITORIAL -- DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE AS TWO Chronicle front-page stories reminded us yesterday, the combination of drinking and driving can be lethal. Our hearts go out to the thousands of families who lose loved ones every year because some idiots think they can drive while drunk. While traffic fatalities involving drunken drivers have decreased in recent years, the numbers are still horrific. In 1996, 17,126 people were killed nationwide in alcohol-related traffic accidents. And the figure could have been much higher. Nearly 1.5 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence. Drinking and driving explained some 41 percent of nationwide traffic fatalities. In California, 1,254 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 1996. ``Designated driver'' may be a non-negotiable fact of life for thousands of motorists, and growing numbers of the population seem to accept as a given that drinking and driving don't mix. However, far too many people still overindulge and then get behind the wheel. Education about the tragic results of drinking and driving must continue, and sobriety checkpoints are a big help. But we all must work to get across a message of zero tolerance for drunken drivers.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Pot Petitioners Compete for Maine Voters (Maine Vocals Sponsor Initiative As Mainers for Medical Rights, Associated With Americans For Medical Rights, Sponsor Narrower Statute) From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: US: Pot Petitioners Compete for Maine Voters ] From: firstname.lastname@example.org Source: Boston Globe (MA) Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 http://www.boston.com/ POT PETITIONERS COMPETE FOR MAINE VOTERS AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Two groups that want to ease Maine's laws against marijuana agree it should be allowed for medical treatment, but they can't see eye-to-eye on what's the best way to do it. Maine Vocals and Mainers for Medical Rights are organizing petition drives in hopes of getting their initiatives on the ballot next fall. The Mainers for Medical Rights' proposal would limit marijuana usage to a narrow range of medical conditions, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, cancer and AIDS. By contrast, the Vocals' version would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana ``for any illness for which marijuana can provide relief.'' Vocals' founder, Don Christen, says the broad wording is necessary to ensure those who need help get it. He said the other group's proposal is part of a national agenda that does not reflect Maine's needs. Mainers for Medical Rights is the state wing of Americans for Medical Rights, or AMR, a national group. AMR is promoting similar legislation in almost a dozen other states. ``By passing legislation in as many states as possible, AMR hopes to pass federal legislation,'' Christen says. ``They don't care that the bill will be meaningless to the people it is supposed to help. ... The people of Maine are getting bought and they don't even know it.'' Christen said Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, Maine Cannabis Alliance, Maine Green Party and other groups have expressed concern that the AMR proposal will confuse Maine voters. Mainers for Medical Rights and AMR maintain Christen's concerns are not valid. They say he is a radical, and his own record jeopardizes any legalization effort. Christen has a history of drug charges and has served time behind bars for trafficking in marijuana. AMR supporters say their proposal is more moderate and has a better chance of attracting voters. The AMR initiative limits the quantity of marijuana a patient can possess to less than two ounces and six growing plants. The Vocals' bill allows for an unlimited supply or crop of marijuana. David Fratello, a national spokesman for the group, said AMR's Maine initiative is being backed by the Maine AIDS Alliance, the Maine Civil Liberties Union and Rep. J. Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Portland. The initiative got under way three weeks ago. ``We are trying to encourage the building of a mainstream coalition,'' Fratello said.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Mexico's Drug-War Ally (CIA Trains Army And Elite Intelligence Unit, Providing Military With Extensive Covert Intelligence Support) Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 00:16:39 -0800 From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: Mexico's Drug-War Ally ] From: Peter Webster
] Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 16:24:24 -0800 Source: International Herald-Tribune Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 Author: Tim Golden, New York Times Service MEXICO'S DRUG-WAR ALLY CIA Trains Army and an Elite Intelligence Unit MEXICO CITY---Hoping to build a new bulwark against the flow of illegal drugs from Latin America, the United States is providing the Mexican military with extensive covert intelligence support and training hundreds of its officers to help shape a network of anti-drug troops around the country, American and Mexican officials say. The officials say the assistance has included training, equipment and advice from the Central Intelligence Agency to establish an elite army intelligence unit that has quietly moved to the forefront of Mexico's anti-drug effort, sometimes ahead of a new civilian police force that the United States is also pledged to support. The effort has proceeded despite growing U.S. concern that it may lead to more serious problems of corruption and human rights in one of Mexico's most respected Institutions, American officials say. In fact, a new U.S. intelligence analysis of the military's drug testing, will cite evidence of extensive penetration of the officers corps, two people who have seen draft versions of the assessment said. Clinton administration officials have described the U.S. aid as a stopgap. Echoing the Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo, they insist that the military's law-enforcement actions will be limited and temporary, helping to disrupt the country's thriving drug trade. Only until its badly corrupted federal police forces can be overhauled. But according to many officials, the Pentagon and the CIA have pressed their help partly out of their need to find new tasks after the Cold War. They hope to use the aid to expand their roles in the anti-drug campaign in Mexico and to improve their relationships with a secretive, nationalistic neighboring army that has often looked at them with suspicion, the officials said. "They didn't have anybody to play with on the Mexican end of the drug issue, so they went for the military," said a former senior official who was involved in U.S. policy in Mexico, referring to the Defense Department and CIA. "They knew the risks, but they thought they could control the situation." Some of those risks have resounded in recent news reports: the jailing of army generals on charges of protecting major drug traffickers; allegations that military officers have been linked to the torture and disappearance of criminal suspects, and failures of due process and proper legal procedure by soldiers stepping in for the police. Mr. Zedillo, who took office Dec. 1, 1994, has called drug trafficking one of Mexico's most serious problems of national security. He first brought army commanders into the redesign of the governrnent's drug-control strategy. Then he authorized them to work with American officials in an ultimately abortive effort to deploy its aging F-5 fighters to chase drug jets. Finally, he began allowing military officers to replace federal police agents in several border cities plagued by smugglers. In October 1995, when Williarn Perrymade the first official visit to Mexico in memory by an U.S. secretary of defense, anti-drug aid was at the center of several cooperative ventures he proposed to Mexican military officials, American and Mexican military aides said. "You were looking for general ways to engage, military to military," a Pentagon aide said. Within months, a first group Mexican Army officers were training in anti-drug operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Of some Mexican 3,000 soldiers who are expected to have passed through Defense Department training courses by next fall, 328 young offficers will have completed special 12- and 13-week-programs intended to create a corps of anti-drug specialists. Those trainers are being sent in turn to train air-mobile special forces units now stationed at the headquarters of the 12 regions and 40 zones that make up Mexico's military geography. Defense Department officials said the anti-drug curriculum of the units, called Air-Mobile Special Forces Groups, ranged from air-assault operations and military policing to human rights. The Pentagon has also given Mexico-73 aging UH-lH helicopters to transport those troops. The helicopters may be used only for antidrug operations. But Mexican and American military officials said there was nothing to stop &e transfer of U.S.-trained arrny officers to similar special forces units that might be deployed against leftist insurgents in southern states like Guerrero and Chiapas. American officials said that what is perhaps the most significant U.S. support for the Mexican rnilitary's anti-drug efforts is probably the least visible. It comes, they said, in the training, equipping and operational support of CIA officers for a special force of the army intelligence section called the Center for Anti-Narcotics Investigations. The unit, comprising 90 carefully chosen young officers, began to come together about three years ago, officials said. Like the civilian intelligence groups the CIA works with in Mexico, the military anti drug force is not supposed to be an "action" unit like the group trained by the agency in the 1980s. But it does appear to sometimes take the lead in raids as well as surveillance actions. Several American officials compared the program to the CIA's work in Colombia, where the agency has been credited with critical help in the capture of major drug traffickers. A key difference, they noted, has been Mexico's extreme sensitivity to anything involving the CIA. Reviews of the unit, which is known by its initials in Spanish as the Cian, have been mixed. Officials said some Mexican prosecutors have complained that the unit's officials have demonstrated spotty notions of the law, at times handing capfured suspects over to the civilian authorities without ever gathering evidence to hold them. American officials said questions had been raised about the unit's integrity after two of its agents were dismissed this year for what an official described as "unprofessional conduct." Some have also wondered about its independence from both Mexican civilians and American intelligence officers.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Reporter Held After Writing Of Pot Dealer (English Muzzle 'Mirror' Journalist Who Says She Bought Marijuana From Son Of British Cabinet Minister) Subj: UK: Reporter Held After Writing Of Pot Dealer From: John W.Black Date: Fri, 02 Jan 1998 18:18:42 -0500 Source: Orange County Register Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: 30 Dec 1997 REPORTER HELD AFTER WRITING OF POT DEALER Police in England on Monday arrested a journalist who says she brought marijuana from the son of a British Cabinet minister, prompting an angry protest from her editor. "This is an outrageous decision which is, in my opinion, specifically designed to deflect attention from the criminal activities of a Cabinet minister's son to the entirely justifiable methods deployed by a newspaper to uncover them," Mirror editor Piers Morgan said in a statement.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Journalist Arrested Over Drugs Bought In 'Sting' (Different Version In England's 'Independent') Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 00:16:37 -0800 From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: UK: Journalist Arrested Over Drugs Bought in 'Sting' ] From: Zosimos
Source: The Independent (UK) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL England Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 JOURNALIST ARRESTED OVER DRUGS BOUGHT IN 'STING' The police are usually grateful to journalists who expose crime. They are less keen when the crime is selling cannabis and it is a Cabinet minister's son who is exposed. Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, on a crime that dare not speak a name. The Metropolitan Police has taken the highly unusual step of arresting the journalist who alleges she bought cannabis from a Cabinet minister's 17-year-old son. Dawn Alford, a reporter on the Mirror, was arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance after she went voluntarily to Vauxhall police station in south London yesterday. Ms Alford was arrested but not charged and released on police bail. It is usual in newspaper "sting" operations for the police to ignore journalists' temporary possession of drugs when they are exposing a crime. However, a police source said yesterday that in this case, because they had not been informed in advance of the "sting", and because the journalist held on to the drugs for over a week, the case had been muddied. By charging the journalist the Met also hopes to wash its hands of the case and let the Crown Prosecution Service decide whether to proceed against either the minister's son or the journalist. Ms Alford was unavailable for comment yesterday, but has told friends that she feared she has been followed since the story broke on Christmas Eve. Piers Morgan, editor of the Mirror, said last night: "This is an outrageous decision which is, in my opinion, specifically designed to deflect attention from the criminal activities of a Cabinet minister's son to the entirely justifiable methods deployed by a newspaper to uncover them," he said. "Police have not to my knowledge ever questioned this procedure in the past ... and we will today be appealing directly to the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to immediately launch an inquiry into how this farcical situation arose." Despite the 1933 Children and Young Person's Act which forbids the identification of anyone under 18 who is charged with a crime, the identity of the minister at the heart of the story was spreading in media and political circles yesterday as people returned to work after the Christmas break. It is now only a matter of time before the minister's identity becomes widely, if unofficially, known.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drugbust Dutchmen Could Be Innocent (Justice For All Group Alleges Scottish Customs And Excise Informer Tried To Entrap Dutchmen) From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: UK: Drugbust Dutchmen Could Be Innocent ] From: "J M Petrie"
Source: Press & Journal, Aberdeen. UK Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 URL: www.pressandjournal.co.uk Author: Robert Taylor DRUGBUST DUTCHMEN COULD BE INNOCENT FOUR men convicted of being involved in attempting to land a huge consignment of cannabis in the Highlands were the innocent victims of an entrapment operation, it is being claimed. Documents seen by the Press and Journal cast doubt on the convictions of the Dutchmen caught in Operation Balvenie in July, 1996, during which Customs officer Alistair Souter, from Dundee, was killed. They suggest that an aerial surveillance video, used at the trial to show the Dutch yacht Isolda coming alongside a boat belonging to the men's five co-accused, may in fact show a completely different vessel. It is further alleged that the arrest of the men in international waters, without "reasonable grounds", breached international law. The documents form part of an application for an Abuse of Process ruling submitted to the Lord Justice Clerk on the men's behalf by Manchester-based Justice for All. The group highlights alleged miscarriages of justice. It played a leading role in the acquittal of Rochadale man Stefan Kiszko and the Cardiff Three on murder convictions. If a ruling were granted, Liluwe Hoekstra, 57, Jan van Rijs, 52, his 29-year-old son, Ronny, and nephew Hendrik van Rijs, 24, could walk free. They were jailed for a total of 48 years at a High Court sitting in Dunfermline in March. If it fails, the information will be used as part of the men's appeal against conviction, a date for which has yet to be set. James Stevenson, Justice for All's chairman and co-principal, said: "These men are not criminals, they are not drug dealers, they are not drug users. We are convinced and satisfied beyond all doubt they have become victims of sheer, naked entrapment. "If all the facts do not come out, we will be campaigning for a public inquiry into the Scottish Customs service." Operation Balvenie, one of the most complex Customs operations yet undertaken in Scotland, climaxed with the alleged rendezvous of the Isolda with the former lifeboat Ocean Jubilee, east of Wick. At the trial, it was said the Dutchmen had transferred 3tonnes of cannabis, with a street value of #10million, during the 25 minutes the boats were together. The drugs were found on board the Ocean Jubilee when she was later intercepted by Customs vessels 16 miles from Wick. During that operation, Mr Souter was crushed between the former lifeboat and the Customs cutter Sentinel. The Isolda was stopped in a separate operation as she headed for Makkum in the Netherlands. The two men on board the Ocean Jubilee, Roderick McLean, 53, and Gary Hunter, 34, of Edinburgh, were jailed for 28 and 24 years respectively. Roderick McLean jun, 30, was jailed for 12 years and Brian Silverman, from London, received a 14-year sentence for their involvement in the conspiracy. Justice for All alleges the drugs were never on board the Isolda and that Roderick MacLeansen, an acknowledged Customs and Excise informer, was trying to entrap the Dutchmen who were wrongly believed to be involved with the Dutch mafia. None of the Dutchmen had previous convictions, although the Van Rijses share a surname with a man well-known in the Dutch underworld. Mr Stevenson admits he does not know what MacLean stood to gain from the set-up. A crucial element in the Abuse of Process application is a report from BMT Offshore Aberdeen, official assessors called in to examine the Isolda. BMT says it would have been an operation "of some difficulty" to bring the Isolda and the Ocean Jubilee together to transfer the cannabis. The examination found "no evidence of damage to the deck edge fenders on Isolda as could be expected to be inflicted by the steel-hulled Ocean Jubilee". After comparing the surveillance video with a later film of the Isolda under tow in Aberdeen Harbour, BMT says the tow video "gives further backing to the opinion that the vessel appearing at the start of the surveillance video not being the Isolda at all". In addition, the campaign group claims there were no grounds for seizing the Isolda in international waters as no drugs, guns or money were found on board. Other factors it is claimed cast doubt on the convictions are the possible contamination of forensic evidence, the placing of a tracking device on the Isolda while moored in Spain "without lawful authority", and the trial of all accused before the same jury. While the four Britons had more than 100 witnesses arrayed against them, only four were brought against the Dutchmen. The linking of the accused smeared the Dutchmen's case before the jury, the application alleges. Customs and Excise declined to comment on the matter yesterday.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Hemp Returns To Area Fields (Farmers In Ontario, Canada, Could Plant Thousands Of Hectacres In 1998 After 60-Year Ban) From: Majordomo@mapinc.org ] Subj: Canada - Hemp Returns to Area Fields ] From: firstname.lastname@example.org ] Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 16:29:13 -0800 Newshawk: email@example.com Source: London Free Press (Ontario) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Pubdate: December 30, 1997 Authors: John Miner and Jonathan Sher -- Free Press Reporters HEMP RETURNS TO AREA FIELDS Thousand of hectacres could be planted in '98. Mixed in with the corn and bean fields around London next summer will be an eye-catching crop that has been an agricultural outlaw for 60 years. Hundreds of London region farmers could be growing commercial hemp -- a close relative of the marijuana plant banned in 1938 -- after the federal government moved ahead with regulations for the crop. Two companies in the London region say the regulations, expected to be given final approval in early 1998, open the door for thousands of hectares to be grown in Southwestern Ontario next summer. FROM CARPETS TO CAR PARTS Both Kenex Ltd. of Pain Court in Kent County and Middlesex County-based Hempline Inc., say they'll contract with farmers to grow hemp, which will be used in everything from carpets to paper and automotive parts. "We're hoping for a couple of thousand acres this coming year," Jean LePrise of Kenex said Monday. Kenex is building a processing plant north of Pain Court. LePrise is confident there will be no difficulty finding growers. "There is lots of interest. We have 300 to 400 signed up wanting acreage," he said. Kenex will contract with farmers in Kent, Essex, Lambton and Middlesex, he said. Hempline Inc. is building equipment for a hemp processing plant to be built in the London area. Geoff Kime, a partner in Hempline, said the company is slightly behind schedule but expects to have its plant set up early in 1998. Hempline will have contracts with farmers in the London area to grow a total of 300 to 450 hectares next summer. A number of companies in the United States are interested in buying the processed hemp for use in textiles, Kime said. The regulations will put Ontario several years ahead of jurisdictions in the United States in hemp production, and that's expected to provide millions in export revenue for Canada. But while the farmers will have the government's blessing to plant hemp, grown for fibre and oil, they'll have to comply with tough security measures. Some are designed to ensure the THC level in hemp is so low people won't be able to get high from it. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Area MPs have been lobbying for action on the crop for years. "Hemp has unlimited potential," said MP Paul Steckle (L -- Huron-Bruce), but don't expect huge crops in the near future. ACCEPTANCE TIME "The fact that many associate hemp with look-alike marijuana . . . (means) there'll be a period of time for the community to accept hemp," he said. But in the long term, hemp has the potential to become an important crop, especially if new uses are found for textile production, Steckle said. "Hopefully the regulations will be in place and we'll be ready to grow by the first of March." People pushing for a return of hemp production were afraid bureaucrats at Health Canada would stall the needed regulations even though the crop had the support of politicians. Last spring, senior bureaucrats in the department were called before a Senate committee to explain why the regulations were not in place. The federal regulations published in the Canada Gazette require anyone growing, processing or exporting hemp to have a licence from Health Canada. To get a licence, individuals can't have been found guilty of any drug offence in the previous 10 years. Farmers will not be allowed to grow less than four hectares of hemp and have to be at least 18 years old. The crop can't be grown within one kilometre of school grounds or any public place frequented by people under 18. Hemp has to be stored in a locked container or location and samples of the crop have to be tested at a laboratory to determine THC concentration. Advocates of hemp have argued it will be a valuable crop worth millions for Canadian farmers that will allow them to cut pesticide use. PROCESSING JOBS It is also expected to create processing jobs and supply fibre for the pulp and paper industry, reducing the depletion of Canadian forests. And, Steckle said, advocates for hemp "presented convincing arguments that it would be profitable with not a lot of risk from disease." Opponents see industrial hemp production as the first step in a move to permit legal possession of marijuana. Availability of industrial hemp and the ability to apply for a licence could be used as a legitimate front to disguise trafficking in marijuana, they have argued. Copyright 1997 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation. -------------------------------------------------------------------
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