The story

The feds call industrial hemp a controlled substance -- the same as pot, heroin, LSD -- but advocates say a sober analysis reveals a harmless, renewable cash crop with thousands of applications that are good for the environment.

Two North Dakota farmers are taking that argument to federal court, where a November 14 hearing is scheduled in a lawsuit to determine if the Drug Enforcement Administration is stifling the farmers' efforts to grow industrial hemp. The DEA says it's merely enforcing the law.

Marijuana and industrial hemp are members of the Cannabis sativa L. species and have similar characteristics. One major difference: Hemp won't get you high. Hemp contains only traces of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that gets pot smokers stoned. However, the Controlled Substances Act makes little distinction, banning the species almost outright.

Marijuana, which has only recreational and limited medical uses, is the shiftless counterpart to the go-getter hemp, which has a centuries-old history of handiness.

The February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine heralded hemp as the "new billion-dollar crop," saying it had 25,000 uses. Today, it is a base element for textiles, paper, construction materials, car parts, food and body care products. Read full article »

"Planet in Peril"
Anderson Cooper, Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin & Dr. Sanjay Gupta explore the Earth's environmental issues in a CNN worldwide investigation.
October 23-24 at 9 p.m. ET on CNN

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