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Hemp

Ooops!! Police Destroy Legal Hemp Field

Another problem with having laws against certain types of plants is that police don't know anything about plants. The subtleties of botany are inevitably lost on them and the results are amusing, yet tragic:
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch police who mowed down what they thought were illicit marijuana plants were red-faced today when it emerged they’d ruined a research group’s giant, officially sanctioned field of harmless hemp.

Police proudly announced Wednesday that they’d found more than 47,000 cannabis plants, with an estimated street value of nearly €4.5 million ($6.45 million) concealed in a corn field in the Flevoland province east of Amsterdam.

They mowed down half the plants only to be informed they were the property of Wageningen University and Research Center, a respected agricultural school. [Boston Herald]
That sucks. Sadly, I suspect that the potential for fiascos like this goes a long way towards explaining why law enforcement continues to incoherently oppose hemp cultivation here in the U.S. Police just don't want to be bothered with distinguishing one from the other. If it looks like weed, they'd rather break out a machete than a field manual. It's understandable if you don’t care about, like, freedom and stuff.

Instead of banning hemp, therefore, I propose we just legalize all forms of cannabis and make things a lot easier for everyone.

BMW and Mercedes Use Hemp in Their Cars

Remind me why hemp is illegal to grow in the U.S.:

…if you drive a BMW or a Mercedes Benz, or wear Armani jeans or Patagonia shirts, you could be consuming hemp.

Its fiber turns up in car door panels, insulation and clothing. Its seeds make tasty granola and frozen desserts, its oil expensive cosmetics and ecologically friendly soap.

If you use these products, you won’t be jailed for possession. But would-be hemp farmers’ fear of arrest is what keeps the U.S. importing the stuff instead of growing its own. [Bloomberg]

I don't write about hemp often, mainly because it's not actually a drug, but it bears repeating that the only reason hemp cultivation is illegal is because a bunch of paranoid drug warriors are utterly terrified of it. As stupid as the arguments against legalizing marijuana are, the case against hemp is even more mindless and pathetic.

Just pause for a moment and think about the fact that the DEA banned a substance used to make door panels for luxury cars, simply because it's related to marijuana. That level of marijuana hysteria probably wouldn’t be possible in the current political climate, but we're stuck with it until Congress admits this is ridiculous.

And I guarantee you that if Congress attempts to legalize hemp cultivation in the U.S., there will actually be people who freak out about it and try to argue that hemp somehow endangers America's youth.

If Obama Supports Medical Marijuana, What About Hemp?

On the heels of Obama's hugely popular decision to end the DEA's raids on medical marijuana providers, it's worth looking into some of the other absurd federal drug policies that interfere with states rights and common sense.

Hemp cultivation isn’t technically illegal in the U.S., but you need a special permit from the DEA, and if you ask for one they'll call you a hippie and tell you to go f@#k yourself.  Seriously, try it. I applied last year and this is the response I got:

Dear Mr. Morgan,

We have finished processing your application to "grow hemp so I can make cool snacks and rope and stuff." We regret to inform you that you are a hippie and you can go screw yourself.

Yours cruelly,

Michele Leonhart,
Acting Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration

P.S. Your blog sucks and if you put this letter in your blog, we'll burn down the Chipotle next to your office.

That about sums it up. Honestly, I don’t even get why this is an issue. Hemp isn’t drugs. Why DEA gives a damn if people want to cultivate hemp is completely beyond me. Near as I can tell, they're relying exclusively on the argument that people will surreptitiously grow marijuana in their hemp fields, which is preposterous because you can't do that. Hemp will cross-pollinate and destroy any commercial marijuana in its vicinity. It's the anti-pot.

Thus, I tend to assume that DEA's animosity towards hemp is merely a symptom of the broader culture war surrounding marijuana in general. They'll concede nothing to the reform community, even when their intransigence requires them to obstruct legitimate economic activity based on flimsy reasoning.

Of course, now that we have a president with the guts to tell DEA when they're out of line, there's simply no reason this issue can’t move forward. Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia have all passed laws authorizing hemp cultivation and eagerly await the federal go-ahead. Efforts to legalize hemp are also underway in Minnesota and in California, where a hemp bill died on the governor's desk (Schwarzenegger cited conflict with federal law as his reason for rejecting the legislation).

Hemp won't save our economy, but it can provide income for many good, hardworking people. We lead the industrialized world in the importation of hemp and it would make a great deal of sense to start producing it ourselves.

Dia Mundial de la Marijuana (Global Marijuana Day), Mexico City

Here in Mexico's capital, several thousand people gathered at the Alameda Central, a large park in the historic center of the city, to celebrate Global Marijuana Day. Punks, Goths, hippies, and members of all the other "urban tribes" that constitute the youth counterculture of one of the world's premier cities came together for a day of respect, tolerance, music, and above all, to call for the legalization of the sacred herb. Of course, it's not just the youth cultures of Mexico City that we're talking about here; it's the global cannabis culture. Cannabis Nation knows no boundaries. In many respects, I could have been standing in Memphis or Malmo or Madrid or Mombasa or Minsk--the t-shirts and slogan are the same, the concerns roughly identical. I'll say this for the global prohibition of marijuana: It has created a global culture of resistance that supercedes national identities or barriers. The music and musicians were spot-on, but lyrically and rhythmically. Some of the songs were pure celebration:
We're going to the beach and I wanna smoke We're going to dance and toke
Some of the songs were highly politicized and, naturally, critical of the US. One rapper compared Bush ("creating hell on earth") with Hitler and Hernan Cortes, placing him squarely in a particularly Mexican pantheon of villains. Speaking of politics, one of the great battles going on in Mexico right now is over the government's efforts to privatize Pemex, the state oil monopoly. For many Mexicans, Pemex is a symbol of the Revolution a century ago that overthrew foreign domination. After the Revolution, the Mexicans expropriated the foreign oil companies; now they fear the government is going to give the national oil industry back to the foreigners. One sign at the march tied that struggle to the struggle for marijuana legalization:
Mariguana y petroleo Eso es nuestro patrimonio Marijuana and Oil That's our patrimony
The police presence was minimal, and as far as I could see, there were no problems and no arrests, although pot-smoking was open and frequent throughout the day. I took lots of photos, as you can see. (Sixteen more below the fold.)Sadly, my memory stick got full, and I missed some of the potentially most impressive shots, when the multitude was marching down Avenida Juarez, past the Bellas Artes palace and in front of some of the old colonial buildings in the city center. Still, Global Marijuana Day in Mexico City was a trip. Enjoy the photos, and look for a full report on the action in the Chronicle later this week.

Hemp On the Menu in Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck's Bistro restaurant is known for its fine, grass-fed North Dakota beef and fine wines, but the menu last night included a tasty garden salad with hemp oil dressing. Hemp isn't usually on the menu--at least so far--but the folks at the Bistro added it in honor of the plaintiffs in a case that is being heard at the federal courthouse here this morning. In a little less than an hour, North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and Roger Munson, who is also a state senator, and their attorneys, will be in federal court to argue motions in their case against the DEA for refusing to act on their applications to grow hemp. The farmers have the support of the state government, which, in the face of DEA intransigence, has acted to get the DEA out of the way, as well as the hemp industry, some of whose representatives were at the dinner table at the Bistro last night. The attorneys told me last night the most likely outcome of today's hearings is that the judge will not rule immediately, but take the motions under consideration with a ruling to come shortly. The government will ask for a dismissal, but the hemp attorneys think that's unlikely. The hearing will last until about noon, then there will be a post-hearing press availability, which I will attend before heading back to central South Dakota. Yesterday, on the way up here, my gas mileage sucked as I fought bitter winds out of the northwest. Local TV news reported gusts of 74 mph yesterday. The wind is still blowing, but at least this afternoon it'll be at my back as I scoot across the lonely prairies. Look for a feature article on the hemp hearing on Friday.

Someone Tell the Drug Czar That Hemp Isn't a Drug

The brave drug warriors at ONDCP need so much help. They are just as confused as can be about so many things, but they wear industrial strength earplugs and never go on the internet except to periodically blog about how confused they are. It would be funny if they weren't destroying America.

So anyone who still thinks these people are serious should visit the Drug Czar's blog right away and read his recent post, "Terminated! Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Pro-Drug Hemp Bill." It is downright delusional; a perfect encapsulation of the thinly-veiled psychosis that festers beneath the skin of the powerful Drug War Experts in Washington D.C.
While drug legalization groups extol hemp as some kind of miracle-plant, many Americans aren’t getting the full story. Industrial hemp and marijuana are not just "related" – they come from the same cannabis sativa plant.

The real agenda of hemp enthusiasts is to legalize smoked marijuana and it is no coincidence that legalizing hemp would complicate efforts to curb the production and use of smoked marijuana by young people.
Now, I could explain that hemp actually is a useful plant. I could propose that a hemp bill can't be "pro-drug" because hemp isn't a drug. I could point out that the farmers who want to grow it don't care about marijuana legalization. I could argue that Americans already know it's a type of marijuana. And I could even prove that you can't grow commercial marijuana anywhere near it due to cross-pollination.

But that would be pointless, because the Drug Czar doesn't care about these things. All he cares about is that marijuana legalization advocates sometimes participate in criticizing U.S. hemp policy, and if those people want hemp, he will burn to the ground every damned stalk until they pry the flamethrower from his shriveled dead hands.

In fact, as a marijuana legalization advocate, I should maybe shut up about this, lest I fuel the Drug Czar's deranged fantasy that people who want to make pants and granola bars are actually part of a diabolical conspiracy to turn California into the world's biggest rehab clinic.

Home State Blues, or What's an Itinerant Activist To Do?

Your itinerant Drug War Chronicle has been bouncing around North America for the last few years, spending significant amounts of time in Washington state, British Columbia, Mexico, Northern California, and my home state, South Dakota. The traveling is nice, but I’ve felt politically homeless, as if my presence anywhere were too fleeting for me to be able to do local or state-level politics, and that’s a frustration. So, as much as I would rather be elsewhere, I’m thinking I need to hunker down here in Dakotaland and try to get something done. It is not friendly territory. South Dakota is the only state where voters rejected an initiative to allow the medicinal use of marijuana. Although it was a close vote, 52% to 48%, it was still a loss. Medical marijuana bills (introduced by an acquaintance of mine) early in the decade went nowhere. The state has one of the fastest growing prison populations right now, thanks largely to its approach to methamphetamine use. Marijuana possession is routinely punished by $500 fines, and there is a good chance of jail time, too. (In fact, you may be better off being convicted of drunk driving, if my local court records are any indication.) And, most hideously of all, South Dakota is the only state I know of that has an “internal possession” law. That means when the police arrest you with a joint, they make you submit to a urine test, then charge you with an additional offense if you test positive. South Dakota judges also routinely sign drug search warrants that include forced drug tests. I know one gentleman currently serving a five-year prison sentence for “internal possession” of methamphetamine metabolites, and no, it wasn’t a plea bargain. That was the only charge they had. South Dakota’s drug reform community (which can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand) seems beaten down, but I think I’m going to reach out and see if I can’t get anyone interested in a four-pronged drug reform legislative package: Hemp. Our neighbors in North Dakota have passed a bill allowing farmers to grow hemp and are currently suing the DEA to force it out of the way. South Dakota farmers would like to make profits, too. Medical marijuana. Yeah, we lost a close one last year, and it’s never been able to get any traction in the legislature. But I think we should make them deal with it again. Our neighbors in Montana seem to be surviving medical marijuana. Marijuana decriminalization. Does South Dakota really think pot possession is more serious than drunk driving? Does the legislature understand the lifelong impact of pot conviction on its constituents? Our neighbors in Nebraska decriminalized pot back in the 1970s, and the cornfields are still standing. Repeal of the internal possession laws. Criminalizing someone for the content of his blood or urine is just wrong. Winning any of these will be an uphill battle, and perhaps even linking hemp to broader drug reform issues would spell its doom here. But I think it’s every good activist’s responsibility to do what he can to slow down the drug war juggernaut, so I’m going to give it a shot. What are you doing in your state?

North Dakota Farmers File Lawsuit Against DEA Over Hemp Ban

This afternoon, I particpated in a tele-news conference held in Bismarck, North Dakota, to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit by two North Dakota farmers (including a Republican state representative!) against the DEA for its refusal to issue permits allowing them to grow hemp. North Dakota has passed state legislation permitting hemp growing under strict regulations, and its hemp-friendly Agriculture Commissioner, Roger Johnson, has promulgated the necessary guidelines. Johnson issued state permits to the two farmers months ago and sought DEA approval, but DEA did nothing. Now, the farmers are suing. This case could be a big one, once and for all getting the DEA out of the way of commercial hemp farming. I'll be writing about this in a feature article this week, but in the meantime, you can check out VoteHemp's North Dakota information page here for more detailed info on the case. Too bad somebody has to sue the DEA to get it to uphold the Controlled Substance Act, which specifically exempts hemp from the marijuana prohibition.

They Only Have One Argument Against Hemp…And Its Wrong

The Columbia Tribune reports on the ongoing challenges faced by North Dakota farmers seeking to grow industrial hemp. Though the state of North Dakota has passed legislation authorizing hemp cultivation, farmers must obtain approval from DEA, which isn't exactly fast-tracking this.

Monson plans to raise hemp on only 10 acres at first, a demonstration crop, but under federal regulations, the acreage still must be completely fenced and reported by GPS coordinates. All hemp sales also must be reported.

"That’s a per-acre cost of about $400, and that would be prohibitive," Monson said.

So basically the DEA hasn't decided for sure, but in case they do allow hemp cultivation, they've created roadblocks to make it unprofitable.

Here's ONDCP's Tom Riley explaining the logic of this:

Growers could hide pot plants in hemp fields, complicating agents’ efforts to find them, said Tom Riley, of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy.

"You have legitimate farmers who want to experiment with a new crop," Riley said. "But you have another group, very enthusiastic, who want to allow cultivation of hemp because they believe it will lead to a de facto legalization of marijuana.
…

"The last thing law enforcement people need is for the cultivation of marijuana-looking plants to spread," he said. "Are we going to ask them to go through row by row, field by field, to distinguish between legal hemp and marijuana?"

After being humiliated in The New York Times, it's impressive that they still have the nerve to raise this backwards argument. Cross-pollination would decimate any commercial marijuana in proximity to a hemp field. You can't mix them, Tom Riley. Stop saying that. Seriously, stop.

For a period of time, I assumed that they were simply ignorant of the cross-pollination issue. Perhaps upon coming to understand it, they would endorse hemp cultivation, which more or less ensures the absence of commercial marijuana growing in its vicinity. But now that this issue has been exposed in The Times, it seems much more likely that they're willfully ignoring it and proceeding with their usual nonsense.

The question, therefore, is why? They have one argument against industrial hemp, and it makes absolutely no sense. It's been proven to be comically wrong, and they have no other anti-hemp talking points to fall back on. When legitimate farmers with no interest in the drug culture ask for permission to grow hemp as an agricultural commodity, why do ONDCP and DEA grasp in desperation for even the most pitiful justifications to oppose them?

The answer is that for decades they've arbitrarily denied American farmers the right to participate in a multi-billion dollar industry. They are drug warriors waging battle against economic activities over which they hold no constitutional authority. As with so many other colossal drug war errors, to stop now would be to acknowledge the childish stubbornness and rank incompetance that have motivated their actions from the beginning.

Just another thing we shouldn't even be arguing about. It's not even a goddamn drug.

Hemp: A Coming Epidemic

MSNBC reports on the alarming surge of hemp-laced foods being sold openly in our neighborhoods. Hemp products flow freely across our border from source countries such as Canada, where liberal policies have facilitated a booming industry targeting American snackers south of the border. While a ban on domestic hemp production provides some protection, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep these products out of the hands of children.

According to MSNBC, hemp cultivation has been a problem for quite some time:

Hemp has been grown for at least the last 12,000 years for fiber and food. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp and in fact Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.

In recent years, hemp users have adopted increasingly diverse and discreet methods of administration:

Since the early 1990s, shelled hempseeds have been used as a food ingredient in a wide variety of foodstuffs, including baked goods, snacks, breakfast cereals, beverages, frozen desserts, tofu, and milk substitute.

The DEA has invested millions combating the dangers of hemp, both in court and in open fields around the country where the plant has learned to reproduce itself without human assistance. Still, there remains a well-funded campaign to legalize hemp in several states. Hemp advocates seek to deceive the public with misleading claims that it is a healthy food and that it isn't drugs.

To its credit, MSNBC refutes the dangerous myth that hemp foods are non-psychoactive:

If 20 percent of a food's ingredients are shelled hempseeds, and assuming a 2 ppm THC level, a human being would have to eat 50 pounds of the food in question to become intoxicated.


The prospect of hemp addicts consuming 50 pounds a day to get their fix is frightening indeed, and stands in stark contrast to the hemp advocates' repeated claims that it is "good for you."

Needless to say, this is not your daddy's granola bar.