Admin; Sigh…This lawmaker should be more concerned about tobacco and alcohol; oh-wait, maybe those are his biggest political donations.
Lawmaker worries that hemp would lead to legal marijuana in Minnesota
By Don Davis
Forum News Service
POSTED: 04/08/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT | UPDATED: ABOUT 6 HOURS AGO
If Minnesota approves limited industrial hemp growth, a state senator with a long-time law enforcement background fears recreational marijuana use will be close behind.
“To me, it is baby steps toward recreational marijuana and I think we will find that out by the end of the session,” Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said Wednesday after a committee approved a bill to allow hemp to be grown by researchers.
Ingebrigtsen predicted attempts will be made to amend the hemp bill to include recreational marijuana use. Minnesota law allows a limited use of medical marijuana, but recreational use remains illegal.
Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, brought the hemp bill to the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Finance Division.
Minnesota state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. (Minnesota Senate photo)
It would allow limited growth of hemp as part of a study, with the intention of eventually launching an industry with widespread hemp production.
Eken said farmers in his area of northwestern Minnesota would especially benefit from growing hemp, which can be made into products as varied as clothing and cooking oil. Hemp already is grown just north of Minnesota in Canada, Eken said, and $625 million worth of products made there are sold in the United States.
The senator said that manufacturing plants would sprout in Minnesota if hemp were allowed.
“Honestly, I have not had a bunch of farmers come through my door … and say we need this commodity in Minnesota,” said Ingebrigtsen, a former Douglas County sheriff who has opposed hemp growth whenever it has been debated in the Legislature.
Committee Chairman David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said that he has not heard there will be an attempt to legalize recreational marijuana through Eken’s bill. However, he said, an attempt could be made in a committee to change the hemp measure.
Tomassoni said that testimony in his committee showed that hemp and marijuana, while related and look similar, are not compatible growing near each other, so he does not see the connection that Ingebrigtsen sees.
Many law enforcement officials oppose legalizing hemp because it looks so much like marijuana that they say the illegal plant could be hidden within a hemp field.
Thom Petersen of Minnesota Farmers Union said the only legal problem Canada had when it legalized hemp years ago was that people would steal it out of fields. They were disappointed when they tried to smoke it and it did not give them a high, Petersen said, adding that the thefts only lasted a year or two.
Tomassoni’s committee will continue to consider another bill debated Wednesday: to fund a study of Minnesota and nearby states’ livestock and poultry industry for the past 10 years. The bill requires the state agriculture commissioner to use the study to tell lawmakers how they can best help strengthen and expand the Minnesota animal agriculture industry.
No one objected to the study, but Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, raised concerns when Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, successfully added an amendment to study how lawsuits affect farmers.
Dibble said he could not support the overall bill if the Weber provision is included. It would require a state-conducted study of impacts from lawsuits about items such as farm dust and manure odor. He said the bill incorporating the study carries with it “a forgone conclusion that these lawsuits are not warranted.”
Tomassoni, however, said he does not think the Weber provision will kill the bill.
“It will be worked out,” Tomassoni said of the dispute.
Tomassoni’s committee also considered a measure that could be folded into a larger bill to spend $100,000 over the next two years to help farmers and agribusinesses export products to Cuba.