(reprinted with permission from the NORML weekly news, http://www.norml.org)
May 7, 1998, Washington, DC: Over 99 percent of the marijuana eradicated by the Drug Enforcement Administration's federally funded "Cannabis Suppression Program" is non-psychoactive hemp, reveals a 1998 Vermont State Auditor's report. "The national total of ditchweed eradicated compared to the total number of plants seized is 99.28 percent resulting in less than one percent cultivated indoor and outdoor plant eradication percentage at the national level," the report concludes. It further notes that each cultivated plant seized by the DEA costs taxpayers an average of $3.02. Nationally, the program spent over $9 million for marijuana eradication in all 50 states in 1996.
Wild growing marijuana patches -- known as ditchweed -- are common throughout the southern and mid-western United States. Many of the plants are remnants from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II when low-THC strains of marijuana were harvested for their fiber content. This strain of marijuana will not intoxicate users when smoked.
"The millions of taxpayers dollars spent targeting and eliminating ditchweed is a prime example of the type of government waste inherent to the War on Drugs," charged Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation. "It is further counterproductive when one considers the economic and industrial benefits hemp holds as an agricultural crop. While most Western nations are now encouraging their farmers to grow hemp, America blindly continues to support efforts to eliminate this proven worldwide cash crop."
Presently, farmers in over 30 countries -- including Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia -- grow hemp for industrial purposes.
Vermont state legislator Fred Maslack (R-Poultney), who sits on the House Agricultural Committee, called the findings "damning."
"As far as the War on Drugs is concerned, they would be better off pulling up goldenrod," said Maslack, who sponsored a successful hemp research bill in 1996. "It is no wonder the DEA is fighting hemp tooth and nail, because that is what their whole campaign is against, in the form of ditchweed. [This] is a great fraud being perpetrated on the American people ... [and] it is high time to reallocate this law enforcement money."
According to the Associated Press, however, federal funding for the eradication program will almost double in 1999. Recently, members of Congress and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey earmarked six million dollars to combat marijuana cultivation in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Of those three states, West Virginia currently spends the most dollars targeting ditchweed. The Vermont report found that more than 93 percent of the total plants eradicated there were hemp.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.