Tried To Have Hemp Declared Legal
Beattyville, Ky. -- A Lee County jury acquitted actor Woody Harrelsonon a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession yesterday, endinghis four-year court battle to get the state to differentiate betweenhemp and marijuana.
The six-member jury deliberated about 25 minutes yesterday beforereturning with its verdict.
Harrelson, who spent much of the day signing hundreds of autographs,could have been sentenced to a year in jail and fined $500 if convicted.
"I had the opportunity to talk to some of the jurors afterward, and,regardless of what the Supreme Court says and regardless of what thelegislators say, those people don't think it's right that someoneshould go to jail for growing industrial hemp," Harrelson said. "Tome, they're sending out a very strong message."
He planted four hemp seeds in 1996, knowing he would be arrested,so he could challenge the law outlawing possession of any part ofthe cannabis plant.
Through three courts, he had argued that the statute is unconstitutionalbecause it does not distinguish between marijuana and hemp. Hemp containsonly minute amounts of the narcotic substance that makes marijuanasmokers high, tetra-hydro-canna-binol (THC).
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in March that there is no differencebetween hemp and its narcotic cousin, and it declared that Harrelsonhad to return to Lee District Court for trial.
Harrelson, 39, starred in the films "Natural Born Killers" and "ThePeople vs. Larry Flynt" but is best known to many for his bartendingrole in the '80s television series "Cheers."
"I honestly didn't know which way it was going to go, and I was verynervous," he said. "When they said, 'Not guilty,' I actually crieda little bit."
"I was afraid. There was a very real possibility of going to jail.Technically, I guess I violated the law, according to what the SupremeCourt said."
Former Gov. Louie Nunn, who was on Harrelson's defense team, saidhe had expected the verdict.
"Now it's time to start promoting the growth of hemp so we can havea great economic future in Kentucky," Nunn said. "We need to educatepeople about the distinction between marijuana and hemp."
"We're already losing tobacco and farmers are suffering, and thiswould be an alternative crop."
Each side called several witnesses, and the jurors were shown a videotapeof Harrelson planting the seeds June 1, 1996.
Lee County Attorney Tom Jones asked the jury during closing argumentsto fine Harrelson the maximum $500 and give him at least 30 days injail.
"He created this whole mess himself," Jones said. "He came here tobreak the law. There's no question about that."
"He's got this coming. He misused his fame."
Juror Sylvia Caldwell said there was no doubt in her mind that Harrelsonwas innocent.
"The state just didn't have any proof," she said. "Even on the videotape,we couldn't tell if anything was planted."
Hemp was once one of the state's leading crops. In the 1800s it wasused to make rope and sails, but anti-drug laws, the availabilityof other fibers and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 wiped out productionin this country.
Written by: Steve Bailey, The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY
1. One acre of hemp can produce as much usable fiber as 4 acres of trees or two acres of cotton.
2. Hemp paper is longer lasting than wood pulp, stronger, acid-free, and chlorine free. (Chlorine is estimated to cause up to 10% of all Cancers.) Hemp paper can be recycled 7 times, wood pulp 4 times. Hemp fabric requires fewer chemicals than cotton and is stronger and longer lasting.
3. 5-10,000 Cancer related deaths are caused yearly from pesticide use. Cotton uses as much as 40% of all agricultural pesticides. Hemp uses no pesticides and crowds out weeds without herbicides.
4. Cotton has a drinking problem...extensive water subsidies. Hemp requires less water than cotton and grows in cooler climates.
5. Hemp should be worth $500 per acre if used for low end products such as particle board. If higher use products can be developed such as specialty paper and fabrics, the value could be even greater.
6. Hemp is an excellent rotation crop: it crowds out weeds and its deep tap roots break up hard pan soils.
7. Hemp particle board may be up to 2 times stronger than wood particle board and holds nails better.
8. Low-THC fiber hemp varieties developed by the French and others have been available for over 20 years. It is impossible to get high from fiber hemp. Over 600,000 acres of hemp is grown worldwide with no drug misuse problem.
9. In 1941 Henry Ford built a plastic car made of fiber from hemp and wheat straw. Anything made from a hydrocarbon can be made from a carbohydrate. The 21st century should be the era of the carbohydrate (sustainable agricultural products.) Hemp plastic is biodegradable, synthetic plastic is not.
10. Hemp is the world's most versatile fiber. Almost any product that can be made from wood, cotton, or petroleum (including plastics) can be made from hemp. There are more than 25,000 known uses for hemp!
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