Alaska: Hilling to push legalization of industrial hemp

by Dorothy Chomicz, News Miner

There is a truth that must be heard! FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks City Council member Lloyd Hilling will introduce a resolution at the next council meeting urging the state government to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in Alaska. This is Hilling’s first resolution since regaining the council seat that he lost to Emily Bratcher in 2008.

Hilling said he has several reasons for writing the resolution.

“Well, I’ll tell you, my primary motive is that this is something that should be legal, and should be investigated and should be explored. It should be experimented with openly and possibly be developed into something relatively big for Alaska,” Hilling said.

Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, has only minute quantities of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol, and cannot be used as a recreational drug. Hemp grows quickly, and the plant and fibers can be used for many purposes such as paper products, textiles, plastics, animal bedding, rope, essential oils, medicine, food and construction.

Cannabis indica, commonly referred to as marijuana, is not suitable for industrial use and is cultivated almost exclusively for recreational or medicinal drug use. The cultivation of marijuana, and consequently its close cousin hemp, has been illegal in the U.S. since the 1930s.

Even though it is illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., it is not illegal to use it industrially.

“You realize of course that we import it freely — in other words it gets imported without the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) batting an eye because of the fact that it’s non-psychoactive. The entire United States is deprived of growing their own, and there certainly are places where it would compete with imports,” Hilling said.

Hilling said he hopes Alaska will “join with other states and make enough of an outcry to perhaps get the United States people to realize, hey, this is not a drug.”

Hilling said he also hopes to send a notice to the federal government.

“Well, it’s partly a state’s rights thing — it’s an endeavor to assert our right as a state to grow industrial hemp. The states are sovereign — the federal government has no right to prevent us from growing an agriculturally useful product,” Hilling said.

Currently 10 U.S. states — California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia — have passed laws legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp, but it is still against federal law to do so. According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council website, “While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require the field be secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive.”

Hilling said the resolution is a way to introduce an item he is knowledgeable about.

“Frankly, well, it’s something to do. I’m not up to speed on what the council is doing yet, and this is something I am up to speed on.”

Hilling said his interest in the issue was inspired by local hemp advocate Frank Turney, and after looking into it on his own he became convinced that its production should be made legal.

Mayor Jerry Cleworth says he has not read the resolution yet, but he’s not surprised Hilling wrote it.

“Lloyd is very open to stuff from constituents. That’s one reason I think everybody kind of likes Lloyd — he’s not afraid to go out on a limb, and not afraid to look at things and explore.”

Hilling said he also is in favor of legalizing marijuana, but that strict safeguards would have to be put in place to ensure that children did not have access to it.

Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7590.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner