President Clinton, congressional leaders and members of the press were among those heading home from Mexico aboard Air Force One on Monday (2/15), after a day of high-level meetings on the issue of the drug war, when stewards on the aircraft began taking food and drink orders. Ironically, among the beers being offered was a new label from the Frederick Brewery in Frederick, MD, called Hemp Golden Beer (http://www.hempenale.com). Hemp Golden Beer, as the name suggests, is brewed with seeds from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana (with only trace amounts of the high-inducing THC), the cultivation of which has been outlawed in the United States for decades.
Hemp, once a staple crop in many parts of the country, has a growing following among American farmers searching for alternative crops in an age of falling commodities prices, as well as environmentalists, who tout hemp's versatility end eco-friendliness. Industrial hemp production is legal in many parts of the world and in 1998, Canada instituted an experimental program under which farmers are growing the crop. Under pressure from the DEA, however, the U.S. federal government has thus far refused to consider legalizing its production, contending that hemp's resemblance to its psychoactive cousin will make marijuana eradication more difficult.
Interestingly, the Air Force, which operates Air Force One, recently instituted a policy forbidding air force personnel from ingesting any food or nutritional supplement containing hemp, on concern that such substances can lead to false-positive drug tests. The Week Online spoke with a representative of the Air Force and was told that the White House was responsible for all food and beverage services aboard the presidential aircraft. When asked whether hemp beer was included in the recent ban, Lt. Col. Worley said that the Air Force was operating under the assumption that it was, but that they were waiting for official word from their attorneys.
Despite increasing calls for the legalization of industrial hemp in America by farmers in a number of states, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and its director, Barry McCaffrey, have repeatedly insisted that hemp is not a viable crop, and that support for its legalization is little more than a thinly-disguised attempt to legalize marijuana.
When asked about hemp beer being served on Air Force One, Bob Weiner, spokesman for ONDCP would say only "we have spoken with the people responsible for these things and it will not happen again."
The White House told The Week Online that despite the Air Force's denial, it is in fact the Air Force, and not the White House Travel Office, that is responsible for ordering food and beverages aboard AF1. They also noted that the beer would not be served again aboard the craft, saying that despite the beverage's legality in the U.S., its appearance on the President's plane was "inappropriate".
(Read about the University of Kentucky's recent report on the viability of industrial hemp, in the 7/2/98 issue of The Week Online at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/048.html#ky-hemp. Also read about the Vermont State Auditor's report on the federal government's marijuana eradication program at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/041.html#ditchweed -- the report found that over 99% of the "marijuana" eradicated was wild hemp.)