In what has the makings of an annual event, yesterday Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation which would have allowed some farmers and researchers in California to grow industrial hemp. The Governor’s veto message for AB 684, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007, contained no statements that he had not made verbatim in his veto of last year’s Act, AB 1147. He still cited not wanting to give farmers a “false sense of security” as his top reason for vetoing the bill, which was sponsored this year by Assembly Members Leno, DeVore, Adams, Beall, Berg, Huffman, and Saldana, and Senator McClintock, and supported by such groups as the California Certified Organic Farmers, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Imperial County Farm Bureau, Merced County Farm Bureau, and the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. Unfortunately, a “false sense of security” isn’t the only sense the Governor seems intent on eliminating. One notable difference was that this year’s veto message did not include a statement that the Governor made last year:
In the future, I would encourage the Legislature to work with state and federal law enforcement agencies to craft a measure that would reduce the burden on law enforcement agencies and would comply with federal law in order to avoid the unnecessary prosecution of unwitting individuals in this state.
That statement may have been what gave lawmakers the idea that their revised bill, which was scaled down to a tightly regulated five-year pilot program in just four counties, might win the Governor’s support. Yesterday’s veto directly contradicts the Department of Justice analysis of AB 684, which concluded that the fiscal effect of the bill would be “minor and absorbable” and would not create a “hemp defense” for marijuana growers. According to the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, which led opposition to the bill, their officers would still have trouble telling the difference between hemp and marijuana–it’s disappointing that the Governor didn’t offer to help clarify the practical distinctions.