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Mitch McConnell Endorses Kentucky Hemp Bill

In a statement last Thursday, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the minority leader in the US Senate, endorsed pending legislation in his home state that seeks to reintroduce industrial hemp cultivation there. The bill already has the support of the state's other US senator, Rand Paul, and Agricultural Commissioner James Comer, who were instrumental in bringing McConnell on board.

Is it sunrise for industrial hemp in Kentucky? (votehemp.org)
"After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky's farm families and economy," McConnell said. "The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me."

But McConnell first had to be reassured that industrial hemp wouldn't somehow turn into recreational marijuana. Comer apparently managed the trick.

"Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement's marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use," McConnell said.

In a statement of his own last Thursday, Comer expressed enormous gratitude for McConnell's support.

"When the most powerful Republican in the country calls to discuss your issue, that's a good day on the job," Comer said. "Leader McConnell's support adds immeasurable strength to our efforts to bring good jobs to Kentucky."

The hemp bill, Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), would direct the state Agriculture Department to create a program for licensing industrial hemp producers, but would not go into effect until there is a change in federal law, which bans the production -- but not the importation -- of industrial hemp.

In addition to both US senators, the bill has also garnered the support of two of the state's six US representatives, US Reps. John Yarmuth (D) and Thomas Massie (R). The two congressmen, Sen. Paul, and Commissioner Comer will all testify in favor of the bill.

"Our federal delegation is showing tremendous leadership," Comer said. "They recognize this is not a partisan issue. It's about jobs. And we will continue to push forward to make sure Kentucky is first in line for them."

State legislative leaders are also firmly backing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) joined Sen. Hornback in convincing the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to endorse the bill. It did so Wednesday.

The bill gets a hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee on February 11.

Frankfort, KY
United States

Oregon's Measure 80 Faces an Uphill Battle [FEATURE]

Of the three marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, Oregon's Measure 80, also known as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, is the most radical. For a variety of reasons it also looks to be the least likely to win. In the only recent poll, done last month by SurveyUSA, Measure 80 was trailing by a margin of 37% to 41%, with a large undecided vote of 22%. While pollsters said the results meant the race was "could go either way" and campaign proponents pointed to the high number of undecideds, any initiative polling less than 50% this close to election day is in trouble.

Measure 80 aims to reassure parents. (vote80.org)
That's too bad, because Measure 80 would repeal marijuana prohibition in Oregon outright; allow personal possession and cultivation by adults 21 and over; create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to tax, regulate, and license commercial marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales; and explicitly allow for industrial hemp production.

Unlike Washington's I-502, Measure 80 does not establish a per se drugged driving standard for marijuana; instead, it relies on the state's existing drugged driving laws. It does create criminal penalties for commercial cultivation without a license, selling Oregon marijuana outside the state, and providing it to minors.

Medical marijuana entrepreneur and long-time hemp and legalization activist Paul Stanford relied primarily on his personal wealth to finance the signature gathering campaign for the initiative, but appears to have largely emptied his pockets doing so, and the Yes on 80 campaign has virtually no money in the bank. A political action committee formed to help Measure 80 pass, Oregonians for Law Reform, has also done some fundraising, but so far has raised only a few thousand dollars.

"We think we can squeak by and make some history," said Vote 80 campaign manager Roy Kaufmann. "We've done this before -- we repealed alcohol Prohibition in 1932, and when we talk about the damage Prohibition did to our country, that becomes a very useful argument. We only qualified for the ballot in July, and the electorate is pretty evenly split right now, with a lot of undecideds. We think we can reach the undecided voters."

"It's a toss-up according to the latest poll," said Stanford. "That's not a good place to be at this point in the campaign," he conceded, "but we still have a large number of undecideds, and we just need to get the word out about how our initiative will enhance public safety, provide funding for new technologies and impairment studies, and set up a series of controls to keep it from going to kids and going out of state."

Stanford said the campaign would have to rely on "earned media," or, in other words, depend on generating news stories in the state's mass media, because it doesn't have the money for expensive paid media campaigns. As of about a week ago, the campaign reported having only $1,800 in the bank.

Oregonians for Law Reform has raised about $4,000 for the campaign so far, said spokesman Sam Chapman.

"We're going to be using the money for advertising, phone banking, and things like stickers, and we're also mobilizing students to reach out to their communities," said the former University of Oregon Students for Sensible Policy chapter president. "The majority of voters in Oregon just aren't aware this is even on the ballot -- if we can get to them before they get all the negative slant from the media, we have a good chance to turn out a lot of votes, especially students, since they don't need much persuading."

While Oregonians for Law Reform could undertake broader criminal justice work in the future, it was created primarily as a vehicle for passing Measure 80, Chapman said.

"We started the PAC on September 15 with a two-fold purpose: to raise money for Measure 80 and to act as an independent complementary group to the measure and the campaign," he said. "When we started, we hoped we could open the door back up for large outside donors, but it looks like they've settled on Washington and Colorado. We recognize that, and are trying to do a grassroots campaign."

Anti-Measure 80 billboard paid for by the Drug Free America Foundation (Paul Stanford)
Unlike the Colorado and Washington initiatives, Measure 80 has not managed to attract the big money funders, such as Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance, the Drug Policy Alliance lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action Network, or the Marijuana Policy Project. Those groups have poured millions of dollars into the other initiatives, but not Oregon. 

MPP communications director Morgan Fox wouldn't directly address Oregon, but did explain what made the group comfortable putting money into the Colorado effort.

"Several things made the state an attractive one in which to attempt a ballot initiative," Fox said. "First, the polling looked good for the past couple of years and didn't show any signs of fluctuating by large degrees. Second, there is already a thriving medical marijuana industry and regulatory structure in place that provide an example similar to how the state will look after the passage of Amendment 64, making it much easier to convince unsure voters and make the arguments in favor more concrete. Third, there was a well-established activist community in the state that was effective, organized, and eager to move forward. This last part is very important, since most ballot initiatives are truly the product of grassroots local activists within a state who put together a plan that gets the attention of national organizations that are trying to determine how to best spend their all-too-limited resources."

"Both of the other initiatives were conceived, drafted, polled, and then put on the ballot by organizations that already had the money," said Stanford.

"The big funders saw Colorado and Washington pop up real fast," said Chapman, "and organizers made a lot of compromises in Colorado and Washington in order to poll higher and reach out to certain demographics, like the drugged driving provision in Washington -- that was tossing a bone to law enforcement and the scared mom demographic. Measure 80 is arguably for more progressive personal freedoms than either Colorado or Washington."

If Measure 80 isn't garnering much financial support, at least it isn't seeing a whole lot of organized opposition, either. While local law enforcement and conservative newspaper editorial boards have come out against it, the most significant opposition presence has been the appearance of some much-derided billboards paid for by the Florida-based Drug Free America Foundation.

 As the clock ticks down, Stanford is putting a brave face on things. "We have a shot; there's still a chance we can win," he said. "I'm still optimistic that all three states can pass marijuana reform initiatives and basically legalize personal sale and possession. That would be for the drug war what the falling of the Berlin Wall was for the Cold War."

Even if Measure 80 doesn't win, it at least has to not be a wipe-out, Chapman said.

"If we get under 40%, there will be blowback," he predicted. "The big funders won't come back to Oregon for a long time, and we're likely to be playing damage control in the legislature for the next four years. This could also hurt our medical system. There are raids going on, and we could see legislators backed by law enforcement saying we couldn't get our act together and now let's repeal some stuff."

Oregon votes entirely by mail. Voters will receive their ballot beginning next week. If Measure 80 is going to win over those undecideds and eke out a victory, it has to be getting to them right now.

OR
United States

Colorado's Amendment 64 Heads for the Home Stretch [FEATURE]

With only a few weeks left until election day, Colorado's Amendment 64 tax and regulate marijuana initiative is well-positioned to win on November 6, and its supporters are doing everything they can to ensure it does. Opponents are gearing up as well, and the weeks leading up to the election are going to be critical.

Amendment 64 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in an enclosed locked space. It also allows for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. And it would create a state-regulated marijuana cultivation, processing, and distribution system, including retail sales.

If the state fails to regulate marijuana commerce, localities could issue licenses. Localities would also have the right to ban marijuana businesses, either through their elected officials or via citizen-initiated ballot measures.  

If Amendment 64 passes, the legislature would be charged with enacting an excise tax of up to 15% on wholesale sales, with the first $40 million of revenue raised annually directed to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. In keeping with the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), such a tax increase would have to be approved by voters.

Amendment 64 does not change existing medical marijuana laws, but it does exempt medical marijuana from the proposed excise tax. For current patients, passage of Amendment 64 would enhance their privacy because no registration would be required -- just ID proving adulthood.

Amendment 64 does not increase or add penalties for any current pot law violations, nor does it change existing driving while impaired laws (although a bill reintroduced this year once again seeks to impose a per se DUID standard.)

The initiative's provisions appear to be broadly popular. According to the latest poll, released Saturday by SurveyUSA for the Denver Post, Amendment 64 is leading with 51%, with 40% opposed and 8% undecided.

While in line with other recent polls, the SurveyUSA/Denver Post poll marks the first time in recent months that support for the initiative has broken 50% except for an outlier June Rasmussen poll that had support at 61%. The Talking Points Memo's PollTracker Average, which includes this latest poll, currently shows 49.7% for Amendment 64, with 39.3% opposed.

That 10-point lead in the polls has initiative backers pleased, but not complacent.

"There has certainly been a nice positive trend in the past few polls, but we are not letting up in our efforts to build support," said Mason Tvert of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is leading the Amendment 64 effort.

"We've got a good feeling, but at the same time, we're redoubling our efforts to push this over the end line," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, who is part of the campaign. "We haven't seen a tax and regulate measure pass anywhere yet. It's a heavy lift, but we're confident."

"It's looking good overall, the polling is good, and we're starting to make some hay within the progressive community," said Art Way, the Colorado point man for the Drug Policy Alliance's lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action Network.

The campaign has sufficient financial backing to go the distance, although it is of course always looking for more. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the main, but not the only funding mechanism, for the campaign, has taken in nearly a million dollars so far, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Related campaign committees have raised another $50,000 or so.

"We've seen a whole lot of support from around the state and the country and to see that continuing toward the election," said Tvert. "It's looking like it will come down to the wire, so late contributions will have a bigger impact than ever before."

With only $87,000 in the bank rank now, the campaign coffers may appear relatively bare, but that's deceiving, said Vicente.

"We've placed about $800,000 worth of ads that will air in October, and we bought that space months in advance because it's cheaper," he explained. "There are ungodly sums of presidential campaign money coming in now."

The only organized opposition so far, Smart Colorado, by contrast has raised only about $162,000, the bulk of it from long-time drug war zealot Mel Sembler of the Drug-Free America Foundation. And it has limited itself to the occasional press release and responses to reporters' queries. Still, it has more money than it had in 2006, when a similar initiative lost with 41% of the vote.

"I've never seen the opposition have so much money," said Tvert. "In 2006, they came up with maybe $50,000. Regardless, the fact is that our opponents will rely on scare tactics and fear-mongering and will partner with law enforcement and the drug treatment industry, who benefit from maintaining the prohibition status quo."

But other opposition is emerging, with a battle for supporters raging on both sides. The opposition has picked up the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), as well as the endorsements of numerous sheriffs, prosecutors, and elected officials.

Still, Amendment 64 has been impressive on this count too, picking up endorsements from the state Democratic, Green, and Libertarian parties, the NAACP, local elected officials, the ACLU of Colorado, as well as the Gary Johnson campaign and the drug reform movement, among others.

"Government officials have been standing in the way of marijuana policy reform for more than 80 years, and the public has come to realize their opposition is not based on evidence so much as politics and the fear of change," Tvert said. "We've seen public support grow significantly in the past 15 years despite the fact that we still largely see elected officials opposed, and now we're seeing things like Gov. Hickenlooper being ripped into by newspaper editorials after he came out against. There was a time when papers like the Denver Post would have paid him kudos for standing up against this, but now, they criticize him for being hypocritical."

One area where the campaign doesn't have to worry too much is the marijuana and medical marijuana community. While there has been some grumbling in the ranks from those in search of the perfect initiative, unlike the "Stoners Against Prop 19" movement in California in 2010 or the internecine warfare in Washington state this year, the friendly fire in Colorado has been fairly muted.

"We occasionally hear people complaining, but the back and forth has been focused almost entirely between us and the no campaign," Tvert said. "By and large, the people who support ending marijuana prohibition in Colorado have come together to support this initiative."

"We're not worried about losing the base," agreed Vicente. "We went to great efforts to involve lots of stakeholders, including lots of dispensary owners and activists, when drafting the language and formulating the campaign plans. People feel bought in win our initiative; it appeals to all Coloradans, but to our base as well."

Another reason Colorado hasn't seen the circular firing squad that is taking place this year in Washington is that Amendment 64 doesn't include some of the controversial provisions included in the Washington initiative, said Vicente.

"There are some key differences with Washington," he pointed out. "We allow adults to home grow and we don't dictate a DUID level. By steering clear of those issues, we help maintain our more traditional base."

If the base appears secure, another key demographic is definitely in play, and it's an uphill struggle for the campaign. The polling throughout suggest that parents with children at home and especially mothers remain a weak spot. The campaign is acutely aware of that and has created another campaign organization, Moms and Dads for Marijuana Regulation, to address it.

"One of the most powerful ways that parents are becoming educated about the benefits of the tax and regulate system is conversation with other parents," said Betty Aldworth of Moms and Dads. "Moms and dads are starting to recognize that taking it out of unregulated market and putting it behind the counter where we can tax and regulate it is a better model. We're encouraging moms and dads to talk to other moms and dads. We've tapped a lot of parents to be spokespeople and will be continuing to educate about why marijuana is safer."

Parents who are open to the conversation can be brought along, Aldsworth said.

"Marijuana is universally available," she said, explaining what she tells concerned parents. "And our options here are to place it behind the counter where a responsible businessperson is checking ID or to leave it in the hand of criminals. When you talk to parents about that specific scenario, which is the reality of marijuana in the world today, they understand that we can do the same thing with marijuana that we did with alcohol, only now we have the advantage of having programs to start rapidly reducing youth access."

"We knew 18 months ago that the soccer moms would be a crucial demographic, and we still have an issue with that area," said Way. "That's why Betty Aldworth is working on that, but we're also making inroads with Women for Medical Marijuana, and the League of Women Voters will be having an event. We're making inroads, but it's not showing up in the polling so far."

"We find that people's fallback position is 'How will it affect my kids?' and we've been trying to engage in a public discussion about how regulating and moving it off the streets is a more effective way to reduce teen use than the failed policy of prohibition," said Vicente. "We've been doing billboards and some TV, as well as the face-to-face," he said.

The Amendment 64 campaign is poised, practiced, and ready to roll to victory in November. It has identified weak spots in its support and is working to bolster them. It's up nine or 10 points a little more than six weeks out, but knowing how previous initiative campaigns have played out, expect that margin to shrink as election day draws near. Victory is within reach, but this is going to be a nailbiter.

CO
United States

New Hemp Bill Introduced in US Senate

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The bill, if passed, would get around the DEA's refusal to differentiate hemp from marijuana and could result in American farmers being allowed to grow the industrial crop.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.org)
The bill, Senate Bill 3501, was introduced last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and cosponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). It would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that hemp is not a drug, even though it is part of the cannabis family. Hemp has much lower levels of THC than marijuana grown for recreational or medicinal purposes.

The bill marks Wyden's second attempt this year to get hemp de-listed. He tried to offer an amendment to the farm bill the Senate passed in June to do just that, but the Senate leadership ruled the amendment was not germane.

"I firmly believe that American farmers should not be denied an opportunity to grow and sell a legitimate crop simply because it resembles an illegal one," Wyden said. "Raising this issue has sparked a growing awareness of exactly how ridiculous the US's ban on industrial hemp is. I'm confident that if grassroots support continues to grow and Members of Congress continue to hear from voters then common sense hemp legislation can move through Congress in the near future."

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, another hemp bill, House Resolution 1831, which would also clarify that hemp is not marijuana for the purposes of the Controlled Substances Act, languishes in the Republican-controlled House.

Washington, DC
United States

Oregon OCTA Marijuana Legalization Initiative Makes Ballot

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) initiative has qualified for the November ballot, the Oregon Secretary of State Election Division's official Twitter feed announced last Friday evening. That means voters in three Western states will vote on versions of marijuana legalization this year. The other two are Colorado and Washington.

The OCTA campaign and allies were quick to react.

"Today is an historic day for Oregon and for the national movement for common-sense marijuana policy," Paul Stanford, chief petitioner said in press release the same night. "Oregon's long had an independent streak and led the nation on policies that benefit the public good. Regulating marijuana and restoring the hemp industry is in that tradition of independent, pragmatic governance. Whether you're liberal or conservative, urban or rural, young or old, regulating and taxing marijuana and hemp makes sense for Oregon."

OCTA now becomes Measure 80 on the November Oregon ballot. It would regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over, with commercial sales only through state-licensed stores. The state's general fund would receive 90% of tax revenues, estimated at more than $140 million annually. Another 7% would go to drug treatment programs, and the remaining 3% would go toward promoting Oregon’s hemp food, fiber and bio-fuel industries.

Regulating marijuana is a more rational approach to decreasing crime and improving youth and public safety, said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which supports the initiative.

"When the voters of Oregon pass this commonsense initiative, it will take money right out of the pockets of violent gangs and cartels and put it into the state's tax coffers, where it can be spent on improving schools, roads and public safety," said the 34-year career law-enforcement officer and veteran of narcotics policing in Baltimore. "Plus, when cops like me are no longer charged with chasing down marijuana users, we will be able to fully focus on stopping and solving serious crimes like murders, rapes and robberies."

Parts of organized labor are taking an interest in the job potential of a legal marijuana commerce.

"We support Measure 80 because it'll get middle-class Oregonians back to work, it’s as simple as that," said Dan Clay, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555. "Whether it's hemp biofuel refineries on the Columbia River or pulp and paper mills in central Oregon, hemp makes sense and fits Oregon's renowned sustainability economy."

A hundred days out from election day, it looks like we've got us a possible marijuana legalization trifecta.

Salem, OR
United States

Dr. Bronner's Head Arrested in White House Hemp Civil Disobedience Action

protest cage with "Mr. President, Let U.S. Farmers Grow Hemp" sign
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, which imports more than 20 tons of hemp oil each year from Canadian farmers, was arrested by members of the DC Metropolitan Police Department after committing an act of civil disobedience within sight of the White House early Monday morning. Bronner and fellow hemp activists pulled up to 16th and H Streets NW, unloaded a jail cell-like structure (to prevent police from immediately interfering), which Bronner locked himself into with 12 hemp plants. He then proceeded to harvest the plants and press hemp oil from them. (Bronner was planning to spread the oil on slices of bread and share it with onlookers, but that was unconfirmed at press time.) [Ed: Read our accompanying interview with David Bronner here, and watch video footage here.]

Bronner said he was waging a "beer bet" with President Obama that the hemp plants are not marijuana and have no drug value. The plants were grown from Canadian hemp seed, and under Canadian regulations, hemp can have no more than 0.3% THC, meaning the plants have no use as a medicinal or recreational drug.

"The industrial hemp plants I am harvesting and processing into oil cannot produce a high of any kind, but according to the Obama administration I'm in possession of approximately 10 pounds of marijuana," said Bronner. "President Obama's US Attorney who handles drug cases in Washington, DC will not be able to prove my hemp has any more drug value than a poppy seed bagel.  The Obama position on hemp is not science-based or good for the US economy. We've lobbied and campaigned for over a decade and feel abandoned by our president, who as an Illinois state legislator voted twice for hemp cultivation."

Activists at Vote Hemp, with which Bronner is affiliated, held meetings with the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2010 to seek a change in hemp policy, but that effort went nowhere. They then took advantage of the White House's public online petition program to ask it to revise US drug policies to allow for domestic hemp production -- it took a federal court order several years ago to force the DEA to allow hemp products to be imported -- but after a seven month delay, all they got was a slap in the face.

That slap came in the form of a one-paragraph response from ONDCP head Gil Kerlikowske entitled "What We Have to Say About Marijuana and Hemp Production."

David Bronner at the White House, with media and supporters
"America's farmers deserve our Nation's help and support to ensure rural America's prosperity and vitality," Kerlikowske wrote. "Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety."

"I expected more from President Obama," Bronner said. "The president can simply direct the Department of Justice to respect industrial hemp grown pursuant to existing state hemp programs, such as North Dakota's. Everyone is sick and tired of America's bankrupt policy on hemp that forces our company to send well over a hundred thousand dollars every year to Canadian farmers. I had hoped that President Obama would not succumb to drug warriors' hysteria regarding hemp. I really don't know what else to do to get our 'Chief Law Enforcement Officer' to take a rational science-based approach to hemp policy in this country."

If the administration won't act, perhaps Congress will. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) cosponsored an amendment to the Agriculture Department reauthorization bill. That amendment clarifies that hemp is an "agricultural crop" and should not be considered the same as marijuana.

While Bronner and other hemp activists support that effort, they argue that it's not the law but its deliberate misreading that is at the root of the problem.

"Senator Wyden's effort is truly commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law than the deliberate misinterpretation of existing law by regressive drug warriors entrenched in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other high level members of the Obama Administration," Bronner said.

Now, with civil disobedience within eyeshot of the White House, the hempsters are hoping to up the pressure on the White House to act.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Washington, DC
United States

Interview: David Bronner and the White House Hemp Civil Disobedience

David Bronner grinds hemp plants into oil, H St. outside Lafayette Park at the White House, 6/11/12
[This interview with David Bronner was conducted Sunday afternoon, prior to today's civil disobedience action. Read our accompanying news report on the action here, and watch video footage here.]

Drug War Chronicle: You have been making efforts to get the Obama administration to reassess its hemp policy. How has that been going?

David Bronner: It's been incredibly frustrating. It's been clear for some time that Obama is being incredibly lame on this. It took them seven months to answer our hemp petition, and when they did, it was with this Orwellian response calling hemp marijuana and opposing legalization. They also refused to meet with a North Dakota delegation, where everyone from the governor on down wants to grow hemp, so what are we going to do?

Chronicle: And now we have the Wyden-Paul amendment. What do you think of that and what are its chances?

Bronner: The introduction of the Wyden amendment is good news. Rand Paul came on board, too. The drug warriors will try to strip it out of the farm bill, of course, but maybe the energy out of this civil disobedience action will do the trick. The introduction of the amendment last week certainly sets up this action nicely.

Chronicle: You will be transporting hemp plants to the vicinity of the White House and processing them to produce hemp oil, but the federal government doesn't differentiate hemp from marijuana. You're going to have about 10 pounds of hemp. Aren't you worried about the possible legal consequences?

Bronner: I will be inside a steel cage to prevent police from getting to me while I prepare the hemp oil-

Chronicle: That's a switch.

Bronner: Yeah, although I do expect to eventually be arrested. I'll plead not guilty; this isn't marijuana. I'll fight them all the way, unless all they want to do is give me something like a traffic ticket. Medical marijuana has provided many opportunities for civil disobedience, but hemp is different. You're not going to have a farmer spending months growing a hundred acres for an act of civil disobedience, so I'm doing it.

Chronicle: But it's not just about hemp or what goes on in Washington, DC, for you, is it?

Bronner: We just gave $50,000 to the cannabis legalization campaign in Colorado. Although that initiative does direct the legislature to enact a hemp farming program, this is mainly about legalization. We'll give money to the Washington state effort, too, because once one or two states go, there will be a seismic shift, and the prohibition of hemp will become increasingly lame and untenable.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Washington
United States

Hemp Civil Disobedience at the White House NOW

David Bronner, president of the widely-known Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, locked himself in an iron cage with hemp plants (the non-psychoactive type) this morning to protest the federal government's ban on hemp. Dr. Bronner's uses hemp oil in its soaps, imported from Canada. There is a live stream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hempaction2, though I just got a malware infection message from my browser the site so proceed with caution. David is just being taken away to a police cruiser right now.

In a few moments I will be posting an interview Phil conducted yesterday with David, and a short news report on the action, and photos from this morning, which also discusses an amendment to the federal farm bill being submitted by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), the first Senate pro-hemp legislation.

Chronicle Book Review: Home Grown

Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico's War on Drugs, by Isaac Campos (2012, University of North Carolina Press, 331 pp., $39.95 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer, Editor

For anyone with a serious interest in the history of marijuana prohibition, Isaac Campos has made an indispensable contribution to the literature with Home Grown, his scholarly work on the history of marijuana in Mexico. In so doing, he not only opens up a previously neglected area of marijuana research -- Mexico! -- but also makes a compelling case for a revisionist view of the standard narratives of pot prohibition in the United States.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/homegrown.jpg
Relying on archival research, access to thousands upon thousands of Mexican press articles over more than 150 years, and the latest social science insights into the social and cultural construction of narratives about drug use, as well as some groundbreaking Mexican intellectual and scientific history, the University of Cincinnati historian covers the career of marijuana in Mexico from its introduction by Spanish colonists shortly after Conquest through its prohibition throughout nationwide by the new revolutionary government in 1920.

Campos traces marijuana's arrival in Mexico to at least as far back as 1530, when one of the conquistadors was granted royal approval to import it for hemp farming. Back then, it was known as canamo, the Spanish word for cannabis. Hemp farming never really took off in Mexico, but the plant itself, a native of Southwest Asia, certainly went native, so to speak.

And that was part of pot's problem. While efforts to farm hemp had largely died out by the beginning of the 19th Century -- mainly for lack of reliable seed supplies -- knowledge of the plant spread during the colonial era among Mexico's indigenous population, which was already well-versed in the use of a wide variety of herbs and plants, including psychoactive ones. Indigenous medical and spiritual practices, which were closely tied, ran afoul first of the Inquisition, which tried to suppress them as the devil's work, and later, of modernizing Mexico, which wanted to shun its "primitive" or "degenerate" indigenous heritage for "civilized" European status.

Campos notes the first report of smoking marijuana for its psychoactive effects in 1846. By then, the plant had been thoroughly Mexicanized, so much so that it was considered indigenous and its introduction as cannabis forgotten. In fact, many observers didn't even realize that the demon weed, now becoming known as "marijuana" was the same plant as cannabis.

As Campos shows in painstaking historical detail, over the next century and a half, marijuana developed a reputation as a bringer of madness and violence, a view that was widely shared both by the indigenous masses and scientific and medical scholars. Newspaper reports of marijuana were almost exclusively and unanimously about people who had smoked it, then committed horrid crimes of violence while driven insane by its pernicious effects. Peasants were known to scream in terror or make the sign of the cross at the mere sight of the plant, associated as it was not only with madness, but with indigenous witchery.

Throughout the 19th Century, there was no counter-narrative to Mexican reefer madness (in fact, when one Mexican physician dared to challenge the orthodox view in 1938, he was nearly drummed out of the profession amid great scandal). Marijuana made you crazy, and the only people who smoked it were criminals, prisoners, and soldiers in barracks. That was the common wisdom, and it was universally supported by the science of the day.

Since running amok on weed seems so foreign to our cultural experience with the drug, Campos devotes some effort to explaining why the reports of madness and mayhem were so consistent. Did it actually make people go crazy? Here he delves into set and setting, the social construction of drug use, and the modern of science of marijuana to suggest that while people may have occasionally really rampaged on reefer, it is more likely that the reports conflated marijuana and other drug use, especially alcohol; that the existing narratives created a sort of "placebo effect" where people did what was expected of them -- go crazy on weed -- that the reports were sometimes made up to sell newspapers, and that because Mexican law provided a sort of insanity defense for people who were intoxicated, people claimed to have been under the influence to avoid criminal sanctions for their crimes.

By the late 19th Century, the repression of marijuana was underway in Mexico. First came restrictions on the sale of marijuana at herbolarias, the market herb stalls operated by indigenous women (you can still see them at the Sonora witches' market in Mexico City), then state and local bans, and in 1920, national marijuana prohibition in Mexico.

Campos' history of marijuana in Mexico is fascinating in its own right and is an outstanding contribution to the literature in itself, but he makes a real contribution to our understanding of pot prohibition in the US as well. The standard narrative, laid down by Bonnie and Whitebread in The Marijuana Conviction and Musto in The American Disease, and relied on by most later scholars, is that Reefer Madness was largely fueled by prejudice and racism toward Mexicans and their drug.

Campos shows that while anti-Mexican sentiment indeed played a role in the construction of the Reefer Madness narrative, that narrative was as much a Mexican import as the weed itself. Mexican public and scientific opinion fully embraced the "marijuana is madness" meme, English-language Mexican newspaper reports of pot atrocities were reprinted widely in the US -- sometimes the same Mexican press story would circulate for years in the US, being reprinted at different times by different newspapers, often with sensational embellishments. Mexico delivered a nicely-wrapped, full-blown Reefer Madness narrative into the eager arms of the likes of Harry Anslinger, who would use it as the basis of our very own version of Reefer Madness.

And that means we have to revise the standard narrative on the history of pot prohibition in the US. We didn't cram marijuana prohibition down Mexico's throat; the Mexicans did it themselves, and the process began long before the US began trying to impose its prohibitionist views on the rest of the world. And, as Campos makes abundantly clear, blaming it on racism directed at Mexicans is just too simple.

Home Grown is a most welcome and important contribution to the history of marijuana prohibition. It has broadened our understanding of how we got to this place, and it belongs on the book shelf of every serious student of the topic.

The Drug Czar's False Statement About Marijuana and Hemp Should be a Bigger Scandal

My latest Huffington Post rant calls out the drug czar's preposterous excuses for the ban on industrial hemp cultivation. Check it out

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