Monday, August 28, 2006

California making a push for hemp growers

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Charles Meyer’s politics are as steady and unswerving as the rows of pima cotton on his Central Valley farm. With his work-shirt blue eyes and flinty Clint Eastwood demeanor, he is staunchly in favor of the war in Iraq, against gun control and believes people unwilling to recite the Pledge of Allegiance should be kicked out of America, and fast.

But what gets him excited is the crop he sees as a potential windfall for California farmers: industrial hemp, or Cannabis sativa. The rapidly growing plant with a seemingly infinite variety of uses is against federal law to grow because of its association with its evil twin, marijuana.

Read more in the NY Times article.

This is a prime example of a government gone haywire. Industrial hemp should never have been made illegal. As a result, what could have been a boon for American farmers and manufacturers of hemp-related products are now losing market share to other nations. All raw materials for hemp products must currently be imported from other nations, the bulk of which comes from Canada where hemp cultivation was legalized in 1998.

Today, China controls about 40 percent of the world’s hemp fiber, and its ability to flood the market “could result in price fluctuations the American farmer would have to weather,” said Valerie Vantreese, an agricultural economist in Lexington, Ky. (Kentucky was once the leading hemp-producing state).

Hemp is grown legally in about 30 countries, including many in the European Union, where it is mixed with lime to make plaster and as a “biocomposite” in the interior panels of Mercedes-Benzes.

In the United States, the chief argument against hemp has been made by drug-control officials, who are concerned that vast acreages could be used to conceal clandestine marijuana, which they say would be impossible to detect.

Big deal! It's not like there's a shortage of marijuana in this country. The "drug war" is and will always be a colossal failure. This idiotic attempt to control hemp farming under the guise of a "drug war" is doing far more damage than good.

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For those of you unfamiliar with hemp and its potential, here's a few links for enlightenment:

North American Industrial Hemp Council


Hemp Industries Association

Hempoline vs Gasoline

and Hemptons in South Africa which claims:

Biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as Hemp. With over 30 million successful U.S. road miles Hemp biodiesel could be the answer to the world’s cry for cheaper fuel. We have spent the last century polluting our beautiful earth with our petroleum based fuels that could have easily been replaced with fuels derived from Hemp. It would only take approximately 6% of our current arable land to produce enough Hemp, for Hemp fuel, to make South Africa energy independent from the rest of the world.

How much longer will America sit on its ass with reefer-madness and continue to outlaw a natural plant that clearly offers so much, not only for us, but the rest of the world as well? The bill to allow hemp farming in California was passed by the state legislature and has been on Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar's desk since last week. He has 30 days to sign or veto it.

California is the first state that would directly challenge the federal ban, arguing that it does not need a D.E.A. permit, echoing the state’s longstanding fight with the federal authorities over its legalization of medicinal marijuana. The hemp bill would require farmers who grow it to undergo crop testing to ensure their variety of cannabis is nonhallucinogenic; its authors say it has been carefully worded to avoid conflicting with the federal Controlled Substances Act.

North Dakota is another state pushing ahead on the issue. The ND State Agriculture Commissioner is crafting rules that would apply to hemp farmers in the state, including requiring a criminal background check on farmers who want to grow hemp.

This is ludicrous.

David Bronner, whose family’s business -- Dr. Bronners Magic Soaps -- said: “You don’t associate a poppy seed bagel with opium.”

Yet, that's exactly what our D.E.A. is doing. Why not require the same criminal background check of nursery owners who sell poppies and the bakeries offering poppy seed bagels?

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