Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Happened to Hemp?

We're talking here about industrial hemp, a cousin of marijuana. It is well known and scientifically proven that industrial hemp contains so little of the chemical THC (which produces the "high" from smoking marijuana) that the plant cannot be considered a controlled substance. I don't have the time to give this subject the treatment it deserves, but will attempt to cover the highlights in an understandable way.

First, a little history. Industrial hemp was a common crop in America for decades, both before and after the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson grew it for market and George Washington once stated (paraphrased), "Indian hemp is a most useful plant; sow it throughout the land." One of the more common uses back then was in the making of rope. Throughout the 1930s, however, a campaign by the oligarch William Randolph Hearst (Hearst newspapers) was launched to paint a dark picture of hemp. One of the thrusts of the smear campaign was to associate hemp with marijuana. That was the time, of course, of the so-called "reefer madness" propaganda in America. Hearst had invested heavily in the timber industry, and hemp was beginning to be seen as a viable alternative relative to pulp for the manufacture of paper.

Presently hemp is recognized worldwide as a source of: pulp for paper; a wide range of clothing items; biomass fuel; bricks, fiberboard, and shingles for home construction; farm animal feed; and even protein utilized in aquaculture operations. The U.S. imports many hemp products, but farmers here are prohibited from growing the plant. Lakota Indians of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota lined up numerous contracts for raw hemp, but the DEA moved in and destroyed their crop---more than once. Thinking that various treaties [giving them sovereignty] signed with The Feds over the years would be honored, the tribe had passed a law allowing the growth of hemp within their nation. As with most treaties between American Indians and our Fed Government, the U.S. broke the treaty of 1868... again. Farmers in Kentucky and Vermont, looking for a viable rotational crop, attempted to import hemp plants from Canada. Given the long-standing Health Fascist campaign against tobacco, Kentucky in particular needed a crop to supplement (or replace) tobacco. Customs and the DEA put a stop to the importing.

It's important to recognize two things. First, employees of agencies such as the DEA are not elected; they are bureaucrats. Second, they write regulations. Regulations are not legislative in nature; instead, they're administrative. When a legislative bill is passed into law, it is handed over to the Executive Department/Agency charged with enforcing the law. That agency then writes the REGULATION (sometimes called a Rule or Standard) that will be used to bring about enforcement. Regulations usually are much more detailed and comprehensive than are legislative acts (laws). Details can be found in regulations that do not exist in laws. In other words, unelected bureaucrats can add items not found in the legislative act. They also can leave out clarifications that reasonably should be included.

Enter the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA lumps all forms of the genus Cannabis into the same category regardless of THC content. [Marijuana contains anywhere from 3% to 24% of the psychoactive chemical; industrial hemp contains far less than 1%.] Reason suggests that the DEA should have excluded industrial hemp when they wrote their regulation. The primary reason that they did not (according to them) is because they cannot tell the difference between the two varieties from the air. That basically is nonsense. Hemp is grown closely packed, with no light between plants; marijuana plants are more spread out.

The entrenched, establishment industries of paper pulp (from trees) and petro-chemical manufacturing do not want the competition that industrial hemp would engender. In my opinion, that's why the U.S. is the only developed nation on Earth that prohibits industrial hemp farming. I'm open to considering other reasons.

Hemp generates about three times more pulp per acre per year than does timber. Plus, for technical reasons I won't bother with here, hemp does not require chlorine bleaching in order to make the final product (paper) marketable. In terms of clothing fiber, a hemp crop does not require the pesticides necessary to raise a cotton crop. In addition to fiber uses, hemp seed oil is both nutritious and found in numerous skin care products. As a rapidly growing plant and one that chokes out weeds, industrial hemp is a small-farmer-friendly crop with an excellent variety of markets.

Hemp would be good for our dismal economy, the small farmer, and American jobs, and just as importantly, it impacts the environment much less harshly than do timber paper pulp and petro-chemical products. Unfortunately for us, industrial hemp legalization and growing have powerful enemies in the almighty Corporatocracy.

If you can, catch the documentary Hempsters: Plant the Seed online. Interesting and entertaining.

No comments: