This article was submitted by guest contributor Derrick Broze
In what could be the beginning of a new attitude towards hemp, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a major farm bill on Wednesday that included a provision to allow the cultivation of the long prohibited plant. Hemp is the term for varieties of Cannabis Sativa plants and its products, which contain only trace amounts of THC and are not used as a recreational drug. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant and found only in trace amounts in hemp fiber, oil, and seeds.
The House voted 251-166 to pass the bill with a resolution allowing universities and state departments of agriculture to grow hemp for research. The resolution only applies to states where industrial use of hemp is legal. The ten states that allow legal growing of hemp include: Colorado, Washington, California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer stated, “We can go ahead and proceed with the pilot project.”
The measure had bipartisan support from Democrats in states where medical marijuana is legal and Republicans interested in using the plant as a cash crop in their home states. Eric Steenstra, president of the advocacy group Vote Hemp, was supportive of the action stating, “We’ve been pushing for this a long time”. The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote.
Despite federal law declaring hemp to be illegal, the United States experienced it’s first cultivation of a hemp plant last October. Farmer Ryan Loflin planted 55 acres of hemp after Colorado passed the historic law to allow recreational use of marijuana and cultivation of hemp.
Colorado’s Hemp Advisory Committee developed rules for the farming of hemp which are then approved by Colorado’s Department of Agriculture. Farmers must register, pay an annual fee of two hundred dollars, and one dollar per acre planted. Plants will also be regularly inspected for traces of THC higher than .3 percent.
If the farm bill is signed by President Obama private cultivation will still be illegal on a federal level but universities within states with legal hemp will be allowed to grow. Individuals within those states who choose to plant and cultivate will still be operating in a legal gray area but it is unlikely the federal government will pursue individual growers.
Currently the hemp industry is a multibillion dollar industry worldwide. The United States alone imported $11.5 million of legal hemp in 2011. China is currently the number one producer of hemp products. The legal cultivation of hemp plants is hoped to spark an economic revolution not seen since the second World War.
A Brief History of Hemp
Hemp has been cultivated around the world for thousands of years. Historical records show the importance of the crop as a method for making rope, paper, textiles, and as a food source. However, as early as 1906 the United States began passing legislation to ban or limit the growth of hemp. The International Opium Convention of 1925 banned exportation of “Indian hemp”, also known as hashish, to countries where it was prohibited. The convention also set up a system of regulatory certificates for importing of the crop.
Between 1914 and 1933 thirty three states passed laws restricting hemp production to strictly industrial. The laws were part of a growing effort to restrict access to marijuana and its effects. In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act labeled hemp as a drug and effectively killed the expansion of the crop.
During World War II the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched production of hemp to provide for the war effort. Citizens were encouraged to grow hemp and a pro hemp war movie was even produced (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0xHCkOnn-A). The hemp was used for laces on shoes of American soldiers, parachute webbing, tack and gear, and many more used on Navy ships. (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32725.pdf) Eventually the United States hemp production reached over 150 million pounds a year.
Since that time hemp has been regulated as a narcotic and cultivation prohibited. There are a number of great books that delve deeper into the history of hemp and marijuana and the reasons the plants were made illegal and the disastrous Drug War initiated. I recommend “Cannabis: A History” (http://books.google.com/books/about/Cannabis.html?id=O7AoY6ljSygC) for anyone wanting to understand the financial interests and racist mentality that existed at the time Cannabis was made illegal.
The Future of Cultivation
With an abundance of uses for hemp one wonders why the United States would continue policies that restrict financial growth, and carry forth policies based on fear, greed and racism. Hemp is capable of creating more fuel efficient cars, as well as cars made from hemp itself much like Henry Ford’s famous hemp car (www.youtube.com/watch?v=srgE6Tzi3Lg). Hemp can be used to create “hempcrete” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hempcrete) a sustainable alternative for building homes. Hemp could potentially revolutionize the way you drive your car, the clothes you wear, the way you harness energy and much more.
Perhaps the United States is on the way towards a more sensible attitude on products that were once deemed dangerous to moral society. By shaking off the misconceptions of the past we can ensure a more prosperous, free future.
One final note: Knowing that legislators often craft large bills with many unseen resolutions and agendas I suggest more research on the full contents of the Farm Bill that is currently headed to the Senate. It would not be the first time the authorities show us one hand (hemp cultivation) while carrying out more detrimental actions with the other. Be ever vigilant, and educate yourself.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the co-founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and co-host of Free Thinker Radio. Broze also hosts and produces a weekly podcast under the name the Conscious Resistance Live. His writing can be found on TheConsciousResistance.com , The Liberty Beat, the Anti-Media, Activist Post, and other independent media sources.