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Woody Harrelson’s Kentucky hemp battle, 2000

Posted on March 22, 2017 | in Uncategorized | by

Actor Woody Harrelson celebrated his not-guilty verdict with supporters outside Lee County District Court on Aug. 24, 2000, in Beattyville. Harrelson was on trial for possession of marijuana after he symbolically planted four hemp seeds in 1996 in a rural Lee County field. Harrelson said the seeds he planted had a lower THC content, and he was challenging the constitutionality of Kentucky’s marijuana laws and trying to bring attention to the uses of growing hemp. At the time, the state legislature said hemp and marijuana are the same, and the state’s highest court agreed. But five women and one man from Lee County said Harrelson didn’t break the law when he planted the seeds in protest. The jury took only 20 minutes to find Harrelson not guilty of a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana. “That wasn’t marijuana he planted, if he planted anything,” juror Sylvia Caldwell said as she left Lee District Court with Harrelson’s autograph on a piece of hemp paper. Outside the courthouse, a crowd of cheering, squealing fans waited for the 39-year-old actor in the dark hemp suit. They carried hand-lettered signs that said “We support hemp.” The decision flew in the face of a law passed by the General Assembly in 1992 and upheld by a unanimous state Supreme Court. It also ended a case that began June 1, 1996, when Harrelson wielded a grubbing hoe to challenge the law, which didn’t distinguish between marijuana and hemp. The latter contains only a minute amount of the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana smokers a high. In 2013, the state passed a law allowing production for agricultural research purposes. The federal Agricultural Act of 2014 removed federal restrictions aimed at growing industrial hemp and allowed states that have legalized its manufacturing to set up research programs to study the benefits of cultivating it. Photo by Janet Worne | Staff

Actor Woody Harrelson, left, with former Kentucky Gov. Louie Nunn on Aug. 24, 2000, during a break in Harrelson’s trial in Beattyville. Nunn, one of Harrelson’s four attorneys, during his closing argument, held up a candy bar made from hemp seeds, then took a small bite. “Now I’ve got it in me and I’ve got it on me,” he said. “If you think Mr. Harrelson should be put in jail for one year or one week or even one night, I guess we’ll be there together.” Photo by Janet Worne | Staff

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