Hemp Hemp Hooray!!!

Hemp is the strongest of all the vegetable fibers. It produces great yields per acre, require little attention and even kills weeds. Hemp actually leaves the soil in good condition for the next crop. It is also a cannabis variety of the Sativa  species. It contains a minute amount of THC, sometimes less than 1%. It has tall slender fibers similar to flax and its parts can be used in a vast range of products. Hemp can become clothing, textiles, paper, plastics and even insulation. It can also be found in foods for humans and feed for animals.

It’s oils are prized for their properties and appear frequently in paints and cosmetics. Hemp was happening in booming post industrial pre war America. Most fibers as raw material were being imported from Europe. Italy in particular. Russia was producing almost a half million tons. Then there was this trend of decreased production and export. In the late 1930’s U.S farmers and many states were eager to grow this useful and easy crop. New machinery was being patented and hemp was talked about in popular publications and scientific circles.  Sadly this excitement compelled a group of wealthy influential business men to convince politicians that hemp was evil and of course a horrible drug. Needless to say hemp lost a lot of followers. Wars happened. Cultural revolution happened. The aforementioned drugs definitely started happening.

Sorry cousin.

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in the U.S. in 1970 when the government reclassified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana. The United States of America is the only developed country in the world that does not cultivate hemp as an economic crop. Considering how well our economy has been doing lately it is wise to rethink that fact. It seems that many states agree industrial hemp has a great deal to offer. 30 Other nations including Japan, Canada and the EU collectively harvest hemp for commercial purposes. So in February of the year 2013 the Federal Farm Bill passed. Section 7606 allows states to engage in limited growth and hemp cultivation.

As of now 12 states have enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity.  Utah, Tennessee, Nebraska, Indiana and Hawaii have all enacted legislation for state sponsored cultivation projects. Several other states are in the process of passing laws of a similiar nature. For example the Illinois Senate unanimously approved House Bill 5085. It passed through the House with 70/28 in favor of it. Once both chambers agree on the language it will go to their governor’s desk. South Carolina approved Senate Bill 839 which reclassifies varieties of cannabis with small amounts of THC as an industrial crop rather than a controlled substance. In that state individuals can grow, cultivate and produce hemp for lawful purposes. That includes but is not limited to the manufacture of industrial hemp products and scientific, agricultural or other research related to hemp as an industrial crop. Members of the House voted 72/28 in favor of the bill and members of the Senate voted 42-0 to pass it unanimously.

Though this trend is promising it is not without incident. Right now Kentucky is in court regarding this issue. In 2013 they legalized industrial hemp. This past week 250 pounds of hemp seeds imported from Italy were seized from a UPS facility at the Louisville International Airport by the DEA. The Kentucky government had actually ordered the seeds to plant at universities for their hemp pilot program. They are perfectly in compliance with their state and even with federal law yet the DEA refused to return the seeds. So the Kentucky Agriculture Department filed suit against the Justice Department, DEA, U.S. Customs & Border Protection and the Attorney General Eric Holder. A lawyer for KY was fervent about how much of a waste of taxpayer’s money it is to impound LEGAL hemp seeds. In the first hearing of the case a Judge Hyburn (II) stated that the DEA must explicitly state what would need to be done for those in the pilot program to have the seeds returned. The Feds said that KY Department of Agriculture must fill out a narcotics license in addition to providing memorandum of agreement with the departments of universities planning to cultivate the crop. What’s that you say? BUREAUCRACY. Law enforcement says hemp seeds continue to be subject to the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. Kentucky says the new Farm Bill trumps those regulations. Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA inspected and approved the KY Department of Agriculture’s storage facility. They said they would process their import registration and permit within 3 days of reciept. KY Department of Agriculture agreed to provide the DEA with a memorandums of understanding for each university conducting projects. Keep in mind there are 2 weeks left in this years planting season. The Feds seem to be concerned about third party or private growers participating in these projects. That is an issue that will have to be resolved within the state before they can offer any reassurance to the federal agencies.

Note that the DEA has destroyed hemp crops in California, North Dakota and elsewhere in recent years. I mentioned in another post how convoluted federal policies are a hinderance to progress in these crucial areas. These situations do present themselves as a gross waste of resources. If hemp is no longer classified as a controlled substance why would Kentucky require a permit to import hemp seeds? Is that because the DEA has not changed their classification? Well they are a federal agency are they not? They are charged with enforcing the law of the federal government which no longer classifies hemp as a drug. So who missed that memo, meeting, or conference call?

I recall there once was a president whose motto was ” the buck stops here” on account of everyone kept passing on the right of responsibility. It seems that in the case of cannabis related (and arguably unrelated) causes the buck has to be stopped somewhere before someone gets kicked in the head. I’m not advocating violence. Simply making a joke about the Blue Grass State. Seriously though kudos to the people of Kentucky for taking bold and decisive action. They know they are within their rights and compliant with the law at both levels. They are standing up for their citizens who will no doubt benefit from a new enterprise.

There was once a time where goods were “Made in America” and that equated to a well crafted quality product not just within our borders but that was the reputation abroad. It seems a tragedy that states even have to entertain this type of hoop jumping. If their interests are purely industrial there should be no intereference, especially at such infantile stages of development. I believe I enacted the term bullying before in regards to the DEA. That may be a controversial or incendiary statement but they seem to fit the profile. What I mean to say to them is you have a job, allow others who have been without that for too long serve a valuable purpose in their communities. Perhaps that’s it. If the War on Drugs loses stamina or funding will agents be unemployed? Is that what they are afraid of, unemployment? Perhaps a transitional program where displaced federal agents become farmers.

Just a thought.

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