Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hemp Envy

I'm bursting with pride that Colorado is - once again - confronting the Feds on their misguided, overwrought drug policies by allowing hemp to be grown legally in this country for the first time in nearly 60 years.

Image: V.H. Hammer
Hemp, one of the most useful, pest-resistant, low-water crops in existence was grown by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and numerous other founding fathers. Truth is, hemp - an unfortunate member of the cannabis family - can be made into almost anything, except a party favor. While hemp and marijuana looks nearly identical, MJ contains 3-15% THC (the psychoactive ingredient that makes it so popular with the kids) while hemp contains less than 1%.
"Hemp is good for almost anything except getting you high: you can eat it, wear it, wash yourself with it and build your house out of it. It's strong, nutritious and naturally pest-resistant. In the United States, hemp is also illegal."

--Westword, "Green Acres", March 2013
Image: Kristen Healy
Hemp got caught up in that black hole of common sense, the War on Drugs, and was wiped from America's crop lands in the late '50s. A 1985 book by Jack Herer, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes", posits a conspiracy by greedy capitalists (DuPont, William Randolph Hearst, among others) who worried that hemp would compete with wood-pulp paper and the newly invented nylon. Herer claims they teamed up with Harry Anslinger, head of the brand new Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to pass the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937... and to include heavy hemp-growing restrictions.

Honestly, I care little about such theories of the past; all that matters is the state of things today. And change, my friends, is on the horizon.

Flash forward to 1998, when Canada legalizes hemp growth, because something about all that northern niceness lets their brains breathe a bit. It was a genius move - with a hemp-hungry neighbor to the south ($500M in sales last year), they were - and are - quite happy to exchange green for green. (By 2015, Canada predicts that industrial hemp will contribute $100M to their nation's economy.) Growing and exporting industrial hemp is also profitable for China, England, Australia, Russia and France.

Image: Idrhen
This is where North Dakota comes in. I love that this socially conservative state always puts agricultural issues front and center, above all else. When it comes to high-yield, low-maintenance in-demand crops, fair is fair and enough is enough. In 1999, the North Dakota legislature legalized the cultivation of hemp - the first state to do so since it became illegal in the 1930s.

Alas, no ND farmer has yet to plant the crop and test the Feds. (Wait, did I just dare myself?)

Meanwhile, beyond North Dakota and Colorado, other states have followed suit, including:
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Oregon
  • California
  • Montana
  • West Virginia
  • Vermont 
No farmers have actually planted any hemp crops due to "resistance" from the DEA. What we have here, folks, is a backward reefer madness. I'm confident that the economic reality - which always wins out - will become alarmingly clear and then we can emerge from the dark ages of hemp ignorance.

Image: twicepix
 And then I can be an out-in-the-open hemp farmer without wondering if I can bring my ukulele to prison.

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