(04/13/2002)
Back in the 1970's Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglas use to supervise the burning of wild marijuana, actually a wild hemp plant, in the Potomac Highlands. Members of the West Virginia National Guard from Spencer went on weekend burning missions.

Now the Industrial Hemp Act has been signed into law. The sponsor of the legislation, Karen Facemyer-R of Jackson County, says there is a big difference - you can't get high on industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp is used in clothing, bath products, car dashboards and dozens of other well-known products. During World War II a crop was planted in West Virginia to make rope.

There is a hitch. Industrial hemp is in "legal limbo," according to a U. S. Drug Enforcement spokesman, Bill Steffick.

Gus Douglas has supported the bill, and says the biggest problem now is working it through the federal laws, and will be working with WVU to develop a project.

U. S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall-D of West Virginia said "Industrial hemp is not a drug." Thirty nations are producing it, including Canada and Japan.

During WW II, Japan disrupted the hemp supply, and hemp was grown in a rope factory in Petersburg. After the factory closed, hemp grew just about everywhere up and down the Potomac River valley.

The project is considered by some as an economic opportunity for West Virginia.


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