On Friday (5/15), a group of Kentucky family farmers will seek a declaratory judgment in Federal Court on the issue of whether the production of industrial hemp is in violation of federal law. The farmers, represented by attorney Michael Kennedy, base their suit, and their contention that the cultivation of hemp is beyond the scope of federal concerns, on three principal grounds:
Farmers in Canada were recently given permission to plant hemp by the government there. Hemp production is now legal in every Western democracy outside of the US.
Last month, in an appearance in Kentucky, at the University of Louisville, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey ridiculed the notion of hemp as a viable crop, or even as a real issue. He called the argument that hemp could be an alternative to tobacco "silly," insisted that economic viability would depend upon paying laborers "very low wages" and, as to hemp cloth, the retired general stated that "it doesn't even hold a crease." "The bottom line is..." said McCaffrey, "...a thinly disguised attempt... to legalize the production of pot." Finally, in a derisive reference to one of hemp's most public and outspoken proponents, McCaffrey said that he comes to his conclusions about hemp's viability despite the wisdom of "noted agronomists like (actor) Woody Harrelson."
But McCaffrey's views on agriculture are at odds with other agronomists as well. Jeffrey Gain, former chief of the national Corn Growers' Association, recently told the Lexington Herald-Leader, "it's an incredible opportunity. There is too much emphasis on too few crops." And Andy Graves, President of the Fayette County Farm Bureau, is also a hemp supporter. "We want to force the DEA to come to grips with the fact that hemp is not marijuana."
Michael Kennedy, attorney for the plaintiffs, spoke with The Week Online: "We shouldn't be surprised that the Drug Czar comes up with these inane arguments that he can't justify either legally or factually. He is simply attempting to cover up fundamental issues. The DEA has never had the authority, under any doctrine or law, to regulate or prohibit the production of industrial hemp. This is one of the bases of our case."
Kennedy continued, "The farmers represented here are primarily small family farms whose ability to rely on tobacco has been greatly diminished. They need an alternative crop to rotate with their corn or soybeans or whatever else they're scratching out a living growing. Hemp is, without question, the best and most environmentally benign crop around.
"As to the marketability of the crop, joined in this lawsuit is the Hemp Corporation of America. They have joined because they have assured the farmers that they will buy all the hemp that they can produce. Hemp Corporation is completely committed to marketing their hemp-based products through a variety of outlets. We have never, in America, relied upon narcotics agents to determine our markets. The problem is, at this point, that the DEA is desperate to continue to justify the incredible mounts of taxpayer money that they are spending, under the guise of drug control, to pull up ditch-weed. Their budgets are dependent upon these absurd programs, and unfortunately, the American farmer is being hurt by this bureaucratic power grab."
(Last week we reported that a Vermont state auditor's report had found that more than 99% of "marijuana" eradicated with federal eradication funds was non-psychoactive, wild hemp rather than cultivated marijuana. See http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/5-8.html#ditchweed.)
(Drug Czar McCaffrey, a retired four-star general, would do well to review his military history. During World War II, the federal government encouraged farmers to grow hemp, which was seen as important to the war effort. If your browser has video capability, you can see "Hemp for Victory", a USDA film created to convince farmers to grow hemp again, after the government had wiped the industry out a few years before. Check it out on the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act's web site at http://www.crrh.org/hemp4victory.html.)
(The University of Kentucky Press reprinted "A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky" last year, a scholarly history by James F. Hopkins, originally published in 1951. You can buy it from amazon.com by following our link from http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/5-15.html#hempbook -- DRCNet will earn 15 percent of your purchase!)