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2000 | Woody Harrelson acquitted of hemp charges

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

On August 24, 2000, actor Woody Harrelson was acquitted by a Lee County jury on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession, ending his four-year court battle in an effort to encourage the state to differentiate between hemp and marijuana.

According to reports, the six-member jury deliberated about 25 minutes before returning with its verdict.

Harrelson, who spent much of the day signing hundreds of autographs, could have been sentenced to a year in jail and fined $500 if convicted.

"I had the opportunity to talk to some of the jurors afterward, and, regardless of what the Supreme Court says and regardless of what thelegislators say, those people don't think it's right that someoneshould go to jail for growing industrial hemp," Harrelson said.

"To me, they're sending out a very strong message.

Harrelson planted four hemp seeds in 1996, knowing he would be arrested, so he could challenge the law outlawing possession of any part of the cannabis plant. Through three courts, he argued that the statute is unconstitutional because it does not distinguish between marijuana and hemp.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled on March 23, 2000 that there is no difference between hemp and its narcotic cousin, and it declared that Harrelson had to return to Lee District Court for trial.

"I honestly didn't know which way it was going to go, and I was very nervous," Harrelson said. "When they said, 'Not guilty,' I actually crieda little bit." "I was afraid. There was a very real possibility of going to jail. Technically, I guess I violated the law, according to what the Supreme Court said."

Former Gov. Louie Nunn was on Harrelson's defense team. "Now it's time to start promoting the growth of hemp so we can havea great economic future in Kentucky," Nunn said. "We need to educate people about the distinction between marijuana and hemp."

Click the links below to learn more about the Harrelson and Cockrel trials:

1996 | Woody Harrelson speaks at Simpsonville Elementary

1996 | Woody Harrelson arrested for planting hemp in Kentucky

1996 | Donna Cockrel investigated after Woody Harrelson hemp presentation

1996 | Kentucky Hemp Museum & Library launches mobile exhibit

1996 | Woody Harrelson launches hemp essay contest

1996 | School trys to revoke Donna Cockrel's teaching certificate

1996 | Woody Harrelson defends Donna Cockrel

1996 | Woody Harrelson announces hemp essay winners

1996 | Charges dismissed against Woody Harrelson for Kentucky hemp planting

1997 | Kentucky Hemp Museum takes Harrelson, Cockrel and essay winner to movie premiere

1997 | Parents protest against Woody Harrelson's scheduled second visit

1997 | Court finds statute "overbroad" after Harrelson charges are dismissed

1997 | Woody Harrelson makes second visit to Simpsonville Elementary

1997 | Parents want Donna Cockrel fired after second Woody Harrelson hemp presentation

1997 | School Evaluation Claims Donna Cockrel Fails to Meet Performance Requirements

1997 | Kentucky General Assembly Hears Testimony On Hemp

1997 | Donna Cockrel is fired from Simpsonville Elementary

1997 | Woody Harrelson issues statement regarding Donna Cockrel's termination

1998 | Cockrel files suit against Shelby County schools

1998 | Farmers sue to overturn ban on hemp

2000 | Kentucky Supreme Court rules no distinction between hemp and marijuana

2000 | Woody Harrelson acquitted of hemp charges

2001 | Court reverses decision in Donna Cockrel vs. Shelby County schools

2003 | Donna Cockrel receives $70,000 settlement



Aug 25, 2000, The Spokesman-Review

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