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Africa: As Marijuana Growing Expands, Swaziland Begins to Ponder Hemp

Faced with agricultural crisis and an irrepressible and growing marijuana farming sector, the southern African kingdom of Swaziland is now considering the production of another form of cannabis -- hemp. "Swazi Gold," as the locally produced pot is known, is a valuable commodity, fetching up to $5,000 a pound in the European market, and with growers of traditional crops such as cotton and sugar seeing tough times because of falling prices, generations-old, small-scale, traditional marijuana cultivation is being transformed into a major cash crop in the economically staggering nation.

Known in the local parlance as "dagga," Swaziland marijuana is consumed locally and exported to neighboring countries in southern Africa, as well as Europe. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), marijuana production in southern Africa generated about 10% of the $142 billion annual global marijuana trade. The UNODC's 2006 annual drug report calls Swaziland one of the major producers in the region. The other major regional marijuana producers are identified as Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania.

"People here will get around R80 [roughly US$11] for a 10kg bag of maize when they sell it at the market, but they will get R3,000 [about $405] for a 10kg bag of cannabis if they can sell it to someone who is going to take it outside of Swaziland," local informants told the UN's IRIN News Service. "A person can grow 30 10kg bags in a year up in the hills here, and they use the money to buy cows, furniture, send their children to school. We are in a good situation because our fathers grew dagga, so we could afford to go to school, have clothes and other benefits."

According to South Africa's Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the Swazi pot crop is being integrated into existing regional and global criminal networks. "Of the cannabis that is harvested, the best quality is earmarked for compression into one- or two-kilogram blocks that are smuggled via South Africa and Mozambique to Europe and the UK [United Kingdom]," said a recent ISS report on Swaziland's cannabis trade. "Nigerian criminal networks have moved into the dominant position in the Swazi cannabis trade during the past few years, and the proceeds of their sales in Europe are used to pay for cocaine purchased in South America, which is then smuggled to South Africa and elsewhere."

Swazi police attempt to eradicate the crops, but without much success. While the Swazi government gets limited anti-drug aid from the US, more important support from South Africa has ended because Swaziland can't afford to pay its share.

An IRIN reporter accompanied the head of Swaziland's anti-drug unit, Supt. Albert Mkhatshwa, on one search-and-destroy operation where a plantation was burned. "This is just dagga being grown by some of the villagers close by," Mkhatshwa explained. "We will spray it with weed killer and the plants will be dead in a day or so, but if we come back in a month's time it is likely more will be growing in the same spot. The people know we don't have the necessary resources to cover the whole area, so they will take a chance that we will not come back soon. People have been growing herbal cannabis for a long time in Swaziland, long before it was illegal," he said.

And if some local entrepreneurs and government officials have their way, people may be growing hemp as well. According to IRIN, the Swazi government is set to allow small-scale production of hemp to see if it has the potential to become an economically viable crop.

"In hemp we have an alternative to cotton, which has let us down badly over the last few years. It has been because of marijuana that we have found it difficult to talk about hemp, but that is changing, and we are beginning to shape public opinion to its benefits," said Lufto Dlamini, the Swazi Minister for Enterprise and Employment. "The government is considering a proposal to grow hemp, and a decision will be reached by the end of this month. But I expect it will be given the go-ahead to grow for research purposes, and if that proves successful then we will see," he told IRIN.

Dr Ben Dlamini, 70, a former education administrator in the Swazi Department of Education, was an early hemp advocate. "The major emphasis on cannabis in Swaziland has always been on smoking it and getting a 'high,' but if we were to grow hemp commercially it would solve a lot of problems," he told IRIN. "It can be used to manufacture fuels, textiles, healthy oils and lotions," he pointed out. "People are getting the idea that hemp can be used for purposes other than smoking, but the process of understanding this is very slow."

Vote Hemp Action Alert: Comment On Framing Rules Until October 30

Dear XXXXX,

Considering the bad news I gave you last week about Governor Schwarzenegger's veto, I am especially happy to report good news from North Dakota. The second-largest wheat exporting state, North Dakota is ranked ninth overall in agriculture exports and is just across the border from the thriving hemp farming provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan Canada. This important farming state will be the first to implement an industrial hemp farming law when it publishes rules on state licensing.

You can help make this happen by sending a letter in support of North Dakota's proposed rules. The deadline for comments has recently been extended to October 30, 2006.

While Vote Hemp has been organizing comments in support of the rules, Drug Watch International has mobilized anti-hemp activists to send letters in opposition. Despite their efforts, letters in support of the rules are outweighing those in opposition by a 4-to-1 margin. Help us keep a winning score by sending a letter now.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), also trying to derail North Dakota's hemp farming plans, sent comments quoting the 1999 report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) which expressed concern that Switzerland's industrial hemp program was being "used for the cultivation of more potent cannabis destined for the illicit market."

They failed to mention that by 2001, the INCB no longer cited concerns about Switzerland, and in its review of European Commission industrial hemp regulations it found them to be "effective" and "strict" and concluded that "the misuse of those regulations or the diversion of cannabis licitly cultivated in member states of the European Union is unlikely." Industrial hemp hasn't been mentioned in an INCB report since.

Help us counter the misinformation campaign being waged by Drug Watch International and the DEA. Give North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson the support he needs to bring industrial hemp farming back to North Dakota. Please take action now.

Sincerely,

Eric Steenstra
President

Angry Response to Schwarzenegger's Veto

· Opinion: The Mighty Pen

· Editorial: Governor's Late Vetoes

· Editorial: He Cleared His Desk, Clouded His Ideology

· Don't Hold Your Breath for Sense about Hemp


Opinion: The Mighty Pen

Long Beach Press-Telegram
October 4, 2006

[Ed. Note: The parts relevant to industrial hemp are excerpted below.]

Some of the bills that didn't deserve the ax:

Industrial hemp: The governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed farmers to grow industrial hemp. Since this grade of the plant doesn't cause intoxication, those who want to grow it to make paper, clothing and other products should have the right to also grow an industry.


Editorial: Governor's Late Vetoes

San Francisco Chronicle
October 3, 2006

[Ed. Note: The parts relevant to industrial hemp are excerpted below.]

He vetoed an industrial hemp bill (AB 1147 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) that would have been good for state farmers and good for the economy by reducing the importation of a popular product — and would not in any way have promoted marijuana cultivation or use.


Editorial: He Cleared His Desk, Clouded His Ideology

The Orange County Register
October 6, 2006

[Ed. Note: The parts relevant to industrial hemp are excerpted below.]

The governor also vetoed, wrongly, we believe, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed farmers to grow hemp products provided they do not contain any significant level of THC, the chemical that produces the high from marijuana. Critics were right that the veto showed an "irrational fear" of looking soft on drugs. Industrial hemp can be used to make clothing and a variety of consumer and food products, and has nothing to do with drug use.


Don't Hold Your Breath for Sense about Hemp

The Times-Standard
Eureka, CA
October 6, 2006

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp as a valuable — and non- intoxicating — cash crop is a perfect example of federal control run amok ... as if we didn't have plenty of examples of that in California already.

Read more ...

 

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Hemp: California Governor Vetoes Industrial Hemp Bill

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed California farmers to grow industrial hemp. Sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Assembly Bill 1147 would have defined industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, limited its THC content to less than 0.3%, and mandated annual testing of fields to ensure content limits are met.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempia.gif
(courtesy Independent Media Center)
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said the measure conflicted with federal law and would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to monitor illicit marijuana crops. While he acknowledged recent successful court battles waged by the hemp industry, Schwarzenegger said "no court has specifically ruled that a live cannabis plant is a non-controlled substance or that farming these plants is not a regulated activity. As a result, it would be improper to approve a measure that directly conflicts with current federal statutes and court decisions. This only serves to cause confusion and reduce public confidence in our government system."

Schwarzenegger fell for the standard US police excuse that allowing hemp production would make it more difficult to stop outdoor marijuana grows: "Finally," he said, "California law enforcement has expressed concerns that implementation of this measure could place a drain on their resources and cause significant problems with drug enforcement activities. This is troubling given the needs in this state for the eradication and prevention of drug production."

Oddly enough, police in countries where hemp farming is a legal and productive part of the economy don't seem to have any problem distinguishing between industrial hemp and marijuana.

The hemp industry was not pleased. "Gov. Schwarzenegger's veto is a letdown for thousands of farmers, business people, and consumers that want to bring back industrial hemp to California to create jobs, new tax income and to benefit the environment," said Eric Steenstra, founder and President of Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp farming advocacy group, in a Monday press release denouncing the veto. "The veto was not based on facts but instead an irrational fear he would look soft on drugs in an election year. His veto message shows he knew industrial hemp is an economic development and agriculture issue, but he instead allowed himself to be cowed by confused drug war lobbyists. AB 1147 would have reigned in the overreach by federal authorities that has prevented non-drug industrial hemp varieties of cannabis from be being grown on US soil for fiber and seed. It is disingenuous to cite federal restrictions when drug war lobbyists refuse to sit down with the large coalition of farmers, business people and environmentalists who crafted the industrial hemp legislation. Industrial hemp will continue to be the only crop that is legal to import, sell and consume, but illegal to grow, in California."

"It's unfortunate that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1147. We had looked forward to the hemp oil and seed in our products being grown and produced right here in California," said David Bronner, chair of the Hemp Industries Association Food and Oil Committee and president of Alpsnack/Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "Farmers in California, like farmers all across the United States, are always looking for profitable crops like hemp to add to their rotation. This veto clearly points out why HR 3037, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005, needs to be passed on the federal level."

Seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have now changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes. But the bill Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed differs from those laws. In those seven states, the laws require a DEA license to grow the crop, one the agency is historically reluctant to provide. The California bill would have explicitly provided that the federal government has no basis or right to interfere with industrial hemp in California.

Doctor lashes out after drugs conviction (The Australian)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20492560-29277,00.html

Hemp: North Carolina Governor Signs Bill to Study Industrial Use

North Carolina Governor Michael Easley has signed a bill that will create a commission to study the industrial uses of hemp. With that move coming as California awaits Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision on whether to sign a hemp bill there and North Dakota finalizes rules that would allow farmers to grow hemp under a 1999 law, it appears the hemp logjam is beginning to break -- at least in the states.

The Beneficial Uses of Industrial Hemp Act, passed as part of the as part of the Studies Act of 2006, will lay the groundwork for industrial hemp farming in the heavily agriculture Tarheel State.

According to the new law, a commission will be created to study ""the uses of industrial hemp oil as an alternative fuel and motor oil; the uses of omega-3 rich industrial hemp seed and industrial hemp oil in snack foods, body care products, and food supplements; the uses of industrial hemp fibers as raw materials for construction and paper products and for fabric; and the uses of industrial hemp in the manufacture of recyclable car parts."

The commission will be comprised of 15 members, including delegates of the Governor, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, House and Senate leaders, Agriculture Committee chairs, the President of the NC Farm Bureau, and the deans of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU and the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at NC A&T. The commission will report its findings and recommendations to the 2007 General Assembly and the Environmental Review Commission by December 1, 2006.

Marijuana: In Annual Harvest Roundup, 98% of All Marijuana Seizures Are Ditchweed

The fact may get lost in the hype about multi-million dollar outdoor marijuana garden seizures at this time of year, but the vast majority of all marijuana plants seized by law enforcement are ditchweed. For those who didn't grow up in the Midwest, ditchweed is feral marijuana descended from the hemp plants farmers produced as part of the war effort in World War II.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dodgecounty.jpg
National Guard marijuana (or more likely ditchweed) eradication team, Dodge County, Minnesota
Like the hemp plants whence it came, ditchweed has negligible levels of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. An old saying in the Midwest is that you could smoke a joint of it the size of a telephone pole and all you would get is a headache.

According to official DEA figures, police seized an estimated 223 million marijuana plants last year. But 219 million of them, or 98%, were ditchweed. That figure is in line with previous years. And a whopping 212 million plants came from Indiana alone. Missouri came in second with 4.5 million plants, Kansas third with 1.1 million, and Wisconsin fourth with 272,000. Most states reported no ditchweed seizures.

The DEA pays for the ditchweed eradication boondoggle, something for which National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws executive director criticized it in a statement noting the annual seizure figures. "The irony, of course, is that industrial hemp is grown legally throughout most of the Western world as a commercial crop for its fiber content," he said. "Yet the US government is spending taxpayers' money to target and eradicate this same agricultural commodity."

Your tax dollars at work.

Hemp: The Anti-Drug

In discussing the bill to legalize industrial hemp cultivation in California, the New York Times hits the nail on the head. Responding to complaints from law-enforcement agencies and ONDCP officials that hemp fields would provide a hiding place for commercial marijuana plants, the Times throws it back at ‘em:

To some people intimate with the nuances of marijuana, however, the idea of hiding marijuana in a hemp field, where the plants would cross-pollinate, provokes amusement. "It would be the end of outdoors marijuana," said Jack [Herer], 67, a marijuana historian and author who runs a group called Help End Marijuana Prohibition, or HEMP. "If it gets mixed with that crop, it's a disaster."

Once again, the drug warriors have followed their own ignorance into a counter-intuitive position that contradicts their stated goals. Widespread hemp cultivation could leave huge portions of the state unsuitable for commercial outdoor marijuana growing, a result they’ve been quite unable to achieve by conventional means.

Further proof that the drug warriors in Washington, D.C. don’t have a clue.

Honestly, I’m surprised they don’t just start claiming it gets you high. It would be our word against theirs. But I guess if they said that, then it would be their fault when some hippie asphyxiates from trying to smoke his pants.

Update: Months later, they're still trying the same line.

Location: 
United States

Industrial Hemp: California Assembly Passes Hemp Bill, Will Schwarzenegger Sign It?

The California Assembly Monday passed a bill that would allow farmers there to produce hemp oil, seed, and fiber for nutritional and industrial purposes. The bill, AB 1147, was sponsored by Assemblymen Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), and passed by a margin of 43-28. It has already passed the state Senate and now awaits the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempplants.jpg
hemp plants
Hemp is a $270 million industry, but American farmers are at a disadvantage because federal law bans its production -- but not its importation. California law currently mirrors federal law in failing to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana. If signed into law, the California bill would not mean farmers there could begin growing hemp, but it would add pressure on the federal government to revisit the issue.

Both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, but are different cultivars within that family. Hemp contains only trace levels of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in recreational marijuana, but its fibers are used in paper, clothing, car parts, and building materials, and its seeds and oils are used as food products.

"Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries," said Leno during debate on the bill. "When this bill becomes law, it will be an economic bonanza for California."

The bill passed on partisan lines, with only one Republican joining Democrats to vote for it. GOP lawmakers resorted to Reefer Madness-style posturing to explain their opposition. "As a conservative Republican, I can't have my name attached to hemp," said Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia). According to Mountjoy, the bill would make the fight against marijuana cultivation more difficult because hemp "sends off the exact same heat signal that is used to spot marijuana crops." Assemblyman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert) sang the same tune, claiming marijuana and pot plants are "indistinguishable."

But law enforcement officers in the 30 countries where hemp is grown legally seem to be able to tell the difference, a point that Assemblyman Leno made. The differences between marijuana and hemp are such that "a five-year-old could tell the difference... Law enforcement who have the gift of sight would have no trouble."

"We thank legislators from both parties that listened to the facts about industrial hemp and made an historic decision to bring back the crop," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, an advocacy group that supported the bill. "Passage in the California Legislature is a major accomplishment for the authors and sponsors of the bill, as well as for thousands of environmentally-conscious voters, farmers and businesses who wrote California legislators," says Steenstra.

No word yet on whether Schwarzenegger will sign or veto the bill.

Mother Nature Implicated in Massive Marijuana Grow-Op

Your tax dollars at work:

From the The Norman Transcript
A call from a concerned farmer in southeast Norman led Cleveland County Sheriff's Department deputies and Norman police officers to a field of 8,889 "wild" marijuana plants growing on private property early Monday morning. The plants ranged in size from 3 feet to 9 feet tall and would have a street value of up to $1,000 each, or around $8 million total, if allowed to grow and be harvested in the coming months, said Captain Doug Blaine, of the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department.

Now I’m not surprised about the plants. Feral hemp, also known as ditchweed, is indigenous to the region. The shocker here is that these officers, in a fit of unbelievable idiocy, actually attempted to place a street value on it. Ditchweed doesn’t get you high! It’s as worthless as the dirt it was yanked from.

And so it appears we may have stumbled upon the most absurd over-estimation of a marijuana crop’s value in the whole stupid history of bored police officers over-estimating the value of marijuana crops.

But you can’t fault the “concerned farmer” who called it in. With Captain Doug Blaine calling the shots, I’d kill every plant in my yard just to be on the safe side.

Yet despite its abundance of ill-informed sensationalism, this article ironically fails to mention the real danger posed by the feral hemp plant. Any commercial marijuana growing in proximity to such a sizable crop of ditchweed stands a strong chance of becoming pollinated by its impotent cousin. The result would be hybridized marijuana of extremely poor quality.

Thankfully, marijuana enthusiasts and bored Oklahoma police can agree on one thing: the ditchweed’s gotta go.

Location: 
United States

Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp days

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.
Date: 
Fri, 09/01/2006 - 9:00am - Mon, 09/04/2006 - 9:00pm
Location: 
Manderson, SD
United States

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