The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it a felony to grow cannabis, including hemp. Forty three years later capitalism is starting to push those puritanical interests aside.
The American hemp industry sells $450 million a year of product from hemp-oil to Wave Tribe surf gear. Yet most of the raw material used to produce these products is still illegal to grow in the United States.
Is there a GREEN light at the end of the 2013 tunnel?
A few politicians are waking up to the benefits of growing hemp and have drafted some legislation that just might right the wrongs done in 1970. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, introduced in the House on February 6 by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), would amend federal drug law to legalize growing cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC.
Massie wants this bill for the struggling farmers and say, "Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed." As farming subsidies begin to dry up, American farmers are desperately looking for a cash crop—they have been for years—and Massie thinks that hemp might fit the bill (pun intended).
I applaud Massie's vision and his desire to kickstart hemp farming in the good ol' US of A—no matter his political intention.
Let's be clear folks, hemp is not weed.
Hemp plants grown to produce oil or fiber are of the same species as cannabis grown for marijuana, BUT their genetics and the way they are cultivated are as different as a whale and a dolphin.
Cannabis plants grown for marijuana are bred for high THC and given enough space to branch out so they can produce buds. Cannabis plants grown for hemp have much lower THC and are packed densely—typically 35 to 50 per square foot—the hemp stalks are the most valuable part because this is where the fiber and oils are extracted.
Eight states are already ahead of the federal legislative waltz (Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) and have enacted laws legalizing farming, using the 0.3 percent THC standard to distinguish it from marijuana. Bravo progressive states, you give me hope.
Unfortunately, closer the home Jerry Brown continues to disappoint. California’s legislature voted to create a pilot hemp-farming project in several counties in 2011, but Governor Jerry Brown (kook) vetoed the bill, citing the federal ban—further evidence that you should never bring back a 'has-been' politician. Canada on the other hand (damn I love Canadians) is way ahead of us.
Canada distinguishes between the two varieties of the plant. It legalized hemp cultivation in 1998. Farmers must be licensed and obtain approved low-THC seeds. Plants can be tested to ensure they contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
Hemp is also legal in about 30 other countries, with China and France (where it was never outlawed) the leading producers. Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary are trying to revive and modernize their hemp industries.
Yet my favorite argument comes from Eric Steenstra, head of the VoteHemp lobby group: “You could outlaw heroin, but you don’t have to outlaw poppy seeds on your bagel or muffin."
True dat. Dudes, wake up and let our farmers grow this crop. Let's drop our 'control on drugs' mentality and move into a new era.