Pubdate: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK) Copyright: 2000 The Anchorage Daily News Contact: Website: Author: S.J. Komarnitsky



Wasilla -- The white Dodge van that pulled in front of Wasilla City Hall on Wednesday afternoon was an eye-catcher: painted green leaves covered the sides and a bumper sticker slapped on the door read, "Bush and Gore make me want to Ralph."

But the van's singular quality wasn't the paint job. This was a pot-powered vehicle -- a "Hempmobile."

In the tank were four gallons of KeroGreen, a fuel made from hemp seed oil, donated by a man in Ohio.

Organized by the Alaska Green Party and Hemp 2000, the trip in the alternatively powered van was aimed at bringing attention to an initiative to legalize marijuana in Alaska, and to the campaign of Anna Young, a Green party candidate running against U.S. Rep. Don Young. (The two are not related.)

Anna Young donated the van, a 1985 Ford Econoline with 75,000 miles that she has used for her campaign.

A former gillnetter, Young said she has crusaded for alternative fuels since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill destroyed her commercial fishing business in Prince William Sound.

"The spill ruined my family," she said. "I want options. If I have to go to Washington, D.C. to get those to happen, I will."

She drove to Wasilla hoping to convince Mayor Sarah Palin that she was wrong to introduce a city council resolution opposing Proposition 5, which would legalize pot use in Alaska for adults in private places and also legalize growing industrial hemp for products such as fuel.

Joining Young was her mother, two members of the Hemp 2000 campaign -- R.L Marcy and Don Hart -- and a man who would identify himself only as Rob, a biodiesel engineer and a biology student at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Of all people, Palin should know the difficulty of enforcing current pot laws, Young said.

"I know where all the pot comes from," Young said. "I know where fishermen get their marijuana. They get it from Wasilla."

The group spent nearly an hour with Palin in her office.

They handed her brochures and pamphlets about hemp, and gave her gifts, including a pair of hemp gloves and a hemp necklace. They also handed out a box of hemp-flower candies made in Switzerland, which tasted about like one might expect a honey-flavored hemp lozenge to taste.

Growing hemp in Alaska could bring in thousands of jobs, Hart told Palin. People could use it to make paper and clothes and fuel, even fish food.

"It's a perfect food to feed fish fry," he said.

Palin, who has admitted to inhaling as a young woman, said little. But she repeatedly asked why, if the goal was growing hemp for clothing, did the group write the initiative to make it legal to smoke marijuana to get high?

They had to write it that way, Hart said. Otherwise farmers would be required to test their crops to prove it wasn't the type of marijuana people smoke for pleasure. The cost of testing would make industrial hemp unprofitable, he said.

Palin remained unmoved.

She said later she thought growing hemp for clothing and fuel were side issues. "Those don't really have anything to do with the foundation of what the initiative is," she said.

But even if Young didn't convince Palin, she considered the trip a success. The van ran smoothly and appeared to get about 20 miles per gallon on the hemp fuel, which is about what it usually gets, she said.

It smelled better too, she said. ------------------------------------------------------------------