Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!

A Hemp House

April 20th – 4/20 – is a day of marijuana awareness. The date became significant because of the police code – 420 – which indicated that some marijuana busting was about to go down. The political landscape is shifting around marijuana. We are in need of ecological solutions, the drug war has officially failed, and health care costs are so high that the people have turned to alternative treatments. The time is coming to federally legalize hemp and marijuana, the prohibition that has been on the books since 1937 has not worked and has instead been the reason why organized crime and institutionalized penalty mark its use and distribution today.

The majority of Americans (55% according to the Marijuana Policy Project report from 2008) believe marijuana should not be a criminal offense and 78% said that they believed that doctors should be able to prescribe it for patients in need. Fourteen states have decriminalized its use – in small amounts for personal consumption , eighteen have medical marijuana laws on the books. All of that signals that repealing prohibition is on the way, but the federal government can and still does occasionally come and break up what the state has sanctioned. The federal government seems confused, doing busts one day and laying low the next – memos have flown around the Dept. of Justice to honor state laws only to be followed up by memos that assert federal authority.

Hemp is a no-brainer boon to the civilized world. It’s strong fibers can be used in cloth, paper, rope, food, and any sort of manufacturing that can use a construction material with long fibers (which is about all of manufacturing). Due to its robust growth, much less pesticides and harmful chemicals are used in its cultivation; it’s quick growing and sustainable.  It is reported that Henry Ford experimented with making hemp parts for his first car designs. During World War II, growing hemp was encouraged by the US Army and USDA to provide the raw materials needed for support. Hemp has very low levels of THC that make smoking it about as practical as smoking banana peels – you would have to puff impossibly large quantities in a very short time to feel anything but a headache. Hemp has the unfortunate lot of being associated with a controlled substance and the fear around its “cousin”, marijuana, is the one and only reason the hemp farming isn’t helping us solve our ecological and economic problems right now.

Medical marijuana is real medicine. Pharmaceutical companies have a lot to gain by perpetuating the image of all marijuana users as Jeff Spicoli, the burn out stoner from Fasttimes at Ridgemont High instead of dealing with marijuana as a serious competitor to their profits. This from a real world professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain, and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe — safer than most medicines prescribed every day. If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

Nuff said? I could add more medical expertise to this argument and more medical conditions that can be helped by its use, but the point is that medical marijuana is valid and sometimes life saving (check out the links here and here to learn more). Pharmaceutical companies have much to lose if suddenly growing a plant at home could replace their intricate system of drug dependencies.

“Just Say No” does not and did not work. What a campaign like “Just Say No” does in reality is create a barrier where a dialogue may have previously existed. The drug campaign of the 80s made famous by Ron and Nancy Reagan shut the conversation about drug usage down. Perhaps there was a small percentage of small children that this program was appropriate for, but when using it as a national drug policy, it only added to the stigma, the distance, the disconnectedness that drug users were already dealing with.  Someone with a drug addiction pretty much always has a plethora of reasons as to why the addiction seemed to “solve” some of their issues. Stopping that addiction means dealing with those life issues, not just cutting access to a drug. Those truly dealing with addiction need a way to reach out  and talk about it with friends and family in a respectful way, not condemnation and shame. The “Just Say No” mentality make all marijuana users “criminal” and draws no distinction between it and much harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Our prisons have a glut of marijuana “criminals” even though they have not committed violent crimes. People of color are arrested more often than their caucasian counterparts (though there’s no indication that they actually use the drug more). The prison culture of rape and recedivism has a great chance of changing a casual marijuana user into a more hardened “criminal”. Families are regularly broken up over marijuana use, possession or cultivation. The drug war on marijuana costs much more than the benefits gained. This from norml.org

Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 853,000 individuals per year — far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

The time is right to regulate and tax marijuana and welcome hemp into our agricultural economics. Right now inflated prices and underworld governance means that all of the profit from our nation’s largest cash crop go to the black market – where you can run into all sorts of other problems (violence and a push for harder drugs). The people want it, it makes sense, we should treat marijuana like alcohol or tobacco, we should allow adults to use it in a safer manner (they are using it anyway). Hemp should immediately be pushed to the forefront of the industrial green revolution that is happening – we are behind in the global markets.

You don’t have to get high to feel good about hemp or marijuana, just tolerant. There are lots of legitimate, benefits to be gained by its legalization – economically, environmentally, health-wise, and community-wise. Let’s stop living in fear. Our Founding Fathers grew hemp and even drafted the Declaration of Independence on a sheet of hemp paper (it was what most paper was made from then). Marijuana is not going away and the benefits of hemp will be reaped by those countries that can get behind a crop that has tens of thousands of uses. For America, it’s not easy being green; we need to make it easier.

Learn more about hemp and the impact of marijuana prohibition at these sites: North American Industrial Hemp Council, Industrialhemp.net, ProCon.orgMarijuana Policy Project, Drugwarfacts.org, norml.org.

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One thought on “Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!

  1. AA says:

    The single best argument I have ever heard against legalizing marijuana is that it is a gateway drug. The numbers are hard to ignore. Something like 60% of adults that tried marijuana before they were out of high school went on to use cocaine (I think it was something like 0.6% for those that never tried). Heroin and psychedelics had simliar ratios.

    Since it is a gateway drug, the $10 billion and 800k arrests don’t seem that out of line (at least statistically) to me. It isn’t as if we’ll automagically $10 billion if it is legalized. A different (and likely truly damaging) drug will replace it as the gateway. Humans will be humans.

    Having said that, I’m all for the legalization of pot. While we are at it, I don’t care if you smoke pot, cigarettes, or ride your motorcycle without a helmet. America has too many laws, they aren’t enforced (or done so selectively) and both Federal and State are making more every year. We always say that going to Mexico is like “loosing your rights, gaining your freedom”.

    Where our views likely depart is that I don’t believe that it is America’s job to pick up the bill when you get cancer, emphysema or scramble your brains on the pavement, as a result of personal decisions and actions. I’d also rather smokers (of all ilk) keep their windows rolled up when driving and smoking, instead of sharing it with the world. I really love trying to drive home with the windows down and inhale someone else’s vice. I’ll leave the litter argument alone (there is no way marijuana gets legalized and not mass produced).

    On a final point, I don’t see any way that the Feds legalize marijuana without taxing the beejezus out of it. My guess is that all those folks growing their own plants will not think highly of this tax. Could we be looking at elevated arrests for tax evasion? You know that law enforcement will be enthusiastic about going after them.

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