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Bring On The Hemp

LdyLunatic

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North Carolina -- Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both farmed it. The U.S. Navy sailed with it. And today it is used in hundreds of products, from energy bars to auto parts.
Hemp is an agricultural product with an enormous potential, especially in North Carolina, where the idea of legalizing it has been floated several times. But hemp is a cousin of marijuana, and no amount of reasoning about the differences in the two has overcome political fears of being associated with dope. The federal government will hear nothing of it, either.

California and seven other states are on the brink of forcing a showdown on the federal government's refusal to sanction hemp agriculture.

The New York Times reports that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must decide whether he will allow a recently passed hemp bill to become law. He could veto it, sign it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

His decision won't be politically easy. The Office of National Drug Control Policy and California narcotics officers are both opposed. The federal government has been adamant about anything having anything to do with marijuana, even medical marijuana.

The main fear expressed in news articles on the topic is that hemp cultivation would mask marijuana farms. A huge crop of hemp planted alongside marijuana would make it difficult for police to find the marijuana.

That's why North Dakota officials, who want to allow hemp farming, say they are ready to enact tough regulations for hemp growers. They'd register any such farms, open them to inspection, and require their owners to be fingerprinted by authorities.

Back in California, those who support the bill passed by the California legislature contend that a federal appellate court decision backs their position that the federal government has no authority to block hemp cultivation.

More than 30 countries allow the cultivation of hemp. The United States already imports a great deal of that hemp to use in the manufacture of a wide range of products. It appears to make no sense to block hemp production just because it is related to marijuana, especially since it contains only a tiny amount of the chemical that brings about a marijuana high.

There's no certainty that legalized hemp cultivation would be a big hit in North Carolina, or in any of the other states. China controls about 40 percent of the world's production already. But there are big parts of this state that could use a crop that produces a good income, and if the climate and soil here are good for that crop, then farmers should be able to give it a try.

There are ways around the problems associated with hemp's similarities to marijuana. The federal government just has to decide that it wants to pursue those remedies.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Published: September 8, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
 

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