Montana: First License Issued to Hemp Grower
By Matthew Brown, Associated Press
BILLINGS – The state this month issued its first license for an industrial hemp-growing operation to a woman who said she wants to develop a domestic market for the plant despite federal law barring its cultivation.
Laura Murphy, of Bozeman, was the first to apply for the two-year licence since the state Legislature approved its commercial cultivation in 2001.
Federal law prohibits such activity, but the license issued by the Montana Agriculture Department on Oct. 14 could challenge whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is willing to override the state.
Hemp is similar to illegal marijuana but without the mind-altering ingredient of the drug. It is grown in parts of Canada and Europe and has a range of uses, from fibers for clothing to a source of biofuels.
Murphy called the application process "pretty easy."
"I went in and had a criminal history check and fingerprints and said I had land to grow it on," she said. "They didn't have an official license for me; it's just a letter."
She said she intends to lease 160 acres of unused ranch land near Ennis and is trying to arrange contracts with buyers.
Montana applied to the DEA in 2002 for recognition of the state's hemp growing law. The request was denied, but Montana Agriculture Department attorney Cort Jensen said it could be reconsidered now that a license has gone out.
"Obviously hemp is a little different than ordinary marijuana, but they have declined in the past," he said. In the meantime, he added: "We will administer the state law."
In her license, Murphy was warned by Jensen that "growing hemp is still illegal."
"You still need to get permission from the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to grow it without facing the possibility of federal charges or property confiscation," he wrote.
He also said that if she wished to use pesticides, Murphy would have to make arrangements through the Agriculture Department since none is currently approved for hemp.
Related: Madison County woman allowed to grow hemp
Montana issues license to grow hemp