This week, Monson and Hauge plan to ask a federal judge in Bismarck to force the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to observe a state law that would allow them to start cultivating hemp. (As a state legislator - a Republican one, no less - Monson helped get the law passed.) Under present federal law farmers must get DEA approval to grow the plant. If Monson and Hauge win, they could clear the way for hemp production on a much larger scale in North Dakota and eventually the United States.
Hemp, also known as "industrial hemp," is a member of the Cannabis family, which makes it a relative of marijuana, also known as "pot," "grass" and (back in the 1930s) "the Killer Weed." But there isn't much of a family resemblance: The level of THC (the chemical that produces the marijuana high) in hemp is only a minuscule fraction of what's found in pot. "You could smoke a joint [of hemp] the size of a telephone pole and it's not going to provide you with a high," Hauge told The Washington Post.
Industrial hemp has a long history and yields a wide variety of products, including rope, cloth, paper and oil. Hauge, Monson and other North Dakota farmers are hoping that hemp could provide them with a more dependable livelihood than more conventional crops like soybeans and wheat.
The DEA, taking the position that marijuana is marijuana, says it plans to fight the case all the way. Meanwhile Hauge says his involvement in the lawsuit has resulted in some ribbing from his neighbors, but he doesn't let it get to him.
"Usually it's something about whether or not the DEA is going to arrest me or if my phone is being tapped," he told the Post. "It's kind of difficult to provoke me. I'm also a CPA, and I have had a tax practice in Ray for 25 years. I was an EMT for 18 years. And I'm not a person who smokes. I don't smoke anything."
When Walt Disney built the Mother of All Theme Parks in Anaheim, Calif., way back in 1955, it might not have been a small world, but Americans definitely were smaller than they are now. And that's creating a big problem.
Disneyland will be closing one of its most popular attractions, the "It's a Small World" ride, for renovations in January. The official story is that workers will be repairing the fiberglass canal through which visitors ride in small boats.
But The Independent newspaper of Britain says that's bogus. The real reason, the paper reports, is that boats keep running aground under the weight of passengers who are bulkier than anything Walt Disney and his "imagineers" ever imagined.
The "Small World" ride apparently isn't the only one with a weight problem, either. Blogger Al Lutz (miceage.com/allutz), who specializes in getting the inside scoop on the Disney empire, reports that the Pirates of the Caribbean, Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland rides are similarly challenged. The Independent writes that Disney will attempt to fix the "Small World" ride by digging a deeper fiberglass canal and replacing the boats with lighter, more buoyant ones. Now if they'd only do something about that agonizingly annoying song ...
Grover Norquist, a right-wing luminary famous for saying he wants to drown government in a bathtub, is not a fellow we find ourselves in agreement with very often. But for once it looks like he may have come up with a winner.
Norquist has enlisted a team of lawyers to draw up a constitutional amendment that would prohibit family members from directly succeeding other family members in elective or appointed government offices. The aim, he says, is to prevent America from being ruled by political dynasties the way some other countries - such as Argentina under Juan Peron and his wife Eva - have been.
Understandably, in view of his ideological bias, Norquist finds the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency especially objectionable: "It will be ridiculous to have Mr. President and Madam President in the White House. We're the United States of America. How can we say to President Mubarak [of Egypt], 'You can't hand off the presidency to your son, it's got to be your wife' or 'Hey Syria and North Korea, you've got to knock this stuff off and be like us.'"
Norquist's proposed amendment wouldn't apply specifically to Hillary because the George W. Bush presidency has intervened between her husband's and what would be hers. But Norquist says he's offering the amendment to try to stimulate a national debate about the dynasty question.
It seems to Upfront that presidential dynasties, present and future, are something legitimate to worry about: If Hillary gets elected and finishes one term, the White House will have been occupied by either a Bush or a Clinton for 24 straight years.
And then there are Jeb, Jenna, Barbara and Chelsea waiting in the wings.
Unfortunately the prospects for enactment of Norquist's anti-dynasty amendment seem remote, to say the least. So just in case Brother Jeb decides at the last minute to make a run for the White House in 2008, we're ordering up some bumper stickers with the slogan: "No More Sons of Bushes."