A clever path to legal industrial hemp
Or why everyone should support the legalization of recreational marijuana
Since Prop 215 made medical marijuana legal in California, there have been increasing calls for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Come this November, California, via Prop 64, and eight other states will vote to legalize the adult use of cannabis. Currently four states have already passed laws allowing the adult recreational use of marijuana and another twenty states allow some type medical use. If upcoming votes match past trends, after this November over half the country will either allow recreational or medical use of marijuana. But you still won’t be able to farm industrial hemp.
Back in the mid-seventies, a book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” was passed around my circle of high school friends. The book was read during breaks between classes in quiet corners of the park-like La Sierra campus. The big paperback is an easy read on hemp’s history, uses and the forces leveraged against its production in the United States. Back then, my main takeaway from “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” was an incredible list of products and benefits industry could be produced from hemp.
Hemp has to be one of nature’s miracle plants, designed specifically for humankind to exploit as technology allows. The list of products you can create with industrial hemp includes foods, edible oils, paper, textiles, plastics, oil, fuel and cosmetics. The raw material of hemp is also renewable and ecologically-friendly to produce. Hemp production is also a negative carbon dioxide emission process. That means growing hemp removes carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.
Since the “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” was first published, technology has advanced uses of hemp that would defy imagination. Concrete, insulation, building materials, industrial lubricants and even medicine can be produced from hemp. About the only thing you can’t get from hemp is stoned. Despite being a very close cousin to marijuana, there is no high in hemp. Unlike marijuana, hemp was once the world’s most valuable agricultural product.
Since 2009, at least three major hemp-related farm bills have been introduced in Congress. For the most part, Congress has refused to correct the DEA’s position on hemp. As of 2015, several states can grow hemp, but only for research purposes and hemp remains on the Schedule I list of dangerous drugs. Mind you drugs such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, cocaine, and oxycodone only rate Schedule II! There are Schedule V drugs that kill a few hundred people a year, yet hemp, an industrial product, is classified as a dangerous drug. For the record, no one has ever overdosed on hemp. Actually no one has overdosed on hemp’s stoner cousin either.
Armed with all this knowledge, I have eagerly waited for “Free Marijuana Now” friends to see the big picture and combine resources with those seeking to legalize industrial hemp. My rational was simple, by touting the economic benefits of hemp, the legalize marijuana movement would increase its base of support. In particular, such a move would draw in those who might be neutral on pot, but understand the economic implications of hemp.
Simple math, more support generally means more money, which is what really wins issues on our ballots. Tax math supports legal hemp over recreational marijuana given the estimated billion dollar impact hemp is estimated to make annually. These are not taxes you have to raise on anyone either, instead these would be taxes generated by a new industry. There is the math of new capital investments to support the hemp production and research. Finally, despite advances in robotics, I’d venture a new hemp industry would spread jobs all across our economy.
So I was still waiting up until a few days ago when it hit me. The hemp industry has the ultimate master plan and it is for the most part, free. It is silly simple too, do nothing. Let the legalize marijuana movement be the tool that sets hemp free. Hemp advocacy groups would no longer need offices in or drag big bags of money to Washington D.C. It hasn’t worked so far. All the Farm Bill related hemp legislation has gotten lost in the subcommittees of subcommittees with serious consideration.
No, there is a much better play. After you close that hemp advocacy office, quietly donate funding, office furniture and then volunteer all your volunteers to the “Free Marijuana Now” movement. Whatever you do, stop advocating for industrial hemp, the point will be moot when marijuana is legal in most of the states that can produce hemp. At that point, the DEA will have absolutely no reason to protect the public from either marijuana or hemp. Once hemp is off of Schedule I, farmers across the United States will have access to a new economic engine in the form of industrial hemp.
Of course hemp getting delisted from the DEA’s Schedule I is based on common sense and hope. One would hope that if an industrial resource in its raw form, cannot in any way cause harm to a person, it would not be subject to the same regulations that control addictive, lethal narcotics. One would hope that those with agendas that have suppressed hemp for reasons other than its relationship to marijuana, would see their positions completely compromised once the latter is legal for recreation. One would hope that despite the rights of a State to regulate what crops are grown within their borders, none would legislate a ban on hemp production.
One would hope, but we will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, I know my frustration with the legalize marijuana for recreational use movement was misdirected.