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Freedom Rally at Common May Support Us All

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Source: Metrowest Daily News

Massachusetts -- Want to do something revolutionary today? Consider attending the Freedom Rally on the Boston Common, from noon to 6 p.m. The mood will be the one of a big fair with musical groups and fun. The underlying reasons are much more serious and deserve everyone's attention.

The Freedom Rally is part of a large movement that tries to educate everyone about a plant many of us know little about: hemp, or cannabis sativa, basically the same original plant as marijuana.

This is a touchy subject, no doubt, but why stay away from it? Cannabis sativa is indeed a super plant that could help the country and the planet, if all of us organize to understand its intrinsic value.

I started listening when recently, two days in a row, I met advocates of this cause who said exactly the same thing. They both couldn't believe how much they learned from reading the book "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," by Jack Herer.

"This book changed my life," said Mitch Fava, a hemp advocate and member of -- http://masscann.org/

Hemp's early history includes its use for making linens as a substitute for flax or cotton. Also, until the 1880s, hemp was a basic resource for making some 75 to 90 percent of all paper, thus including the paper that was used for the draft of the Declaration of Independence.

"Homespun cloth was almost always spun by people all over the world, from fibers grown in the "family hemp patch." In America, this tradition lasted from the Pilgrims (1620s) until hemp's prohibition in the 1930s," Herer writes.

Herer goes on to list the numerous uses of hemp, including the making of varnishes and paints, lighting oil, as fuel and as food, which is the way I have been introduced to hemp in recent months. The nutritional value of hemp is amazing, or, as Fava points out, "I have read that people can live on hemp alone, and they have done that in Russia."

Rich in protein, hemp is also filled with good fats and vitamins. Hemp seed provides both of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) needed in the human diet -- GLA, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid -- as well as a complete and balanced complement of all essential amino acids.

I learned from Fava that the hemp I eat is actually imported, and that has been the complaint of companies throughout the U.S. The nutritious hemp seeds and protein powder could cost much less if we were talking local crops.

Twenty-five states have considered hemp bills or resolutions. Currently, the state that has had bigger news on this is California because of the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which passed the final Senate vote last month and awaits Governor Schwarzenegger's signature.

According to the Web site -- http://www.votehemp.com -- the new law would give farmers the ability to legally supply U.S. manufacturers with hemp seed, oil and fiber and would not weaken anti-drug laws. The bill permits cultivation of only ultra-low-THC industrial hemp grown as an agricultural field crop or in a research setting. Backyard or horticultural cultivation is prohibited.

In Massachusetts, however, advocates have campaigned to legalize the use of cannabis sativa with two different bills that are not about the industrial cultivation: one to support medical marijuana and another to decriminalize the use of it. Not much happened last year but advocates are hopeful for a new beginning soon.

The need for medical marijuana is major because it helps many people cope with pain and nausea. And that point of view is actually backed by medical doctors, such as Dr. Joan Bello, who wrote the book The Benefits of Marijuana.

It was indeed surprising to read in this book that "marijuana has no known level of toxicity" and one would have to eat "five pounds at one time" to have a lethal reaction.

"Everything in moderation," says Fava. "We need to get back to the truth about cannabis sativa. It was used as medicine until 1937. We need to put money on education and treatments."

Fava's devotion to the cause has caused him to memorize information he wants to share with everyone.

"There's a RAND report that says rehabilitation programs are seven times more cost-effective than criminalization, 11 times more effective than border interdiction and 23 times more cost-effective than source country control, like eradicating the crops in Colombia," he said. The United States still makes 700,000 arrests each year because of marijuana use, he said.

Of course I've had the same doubts as everyone else. Is it safe? Are we teaching our children well?

"The benefits far outweigh the precautions that need to be taken," says Fava. "God gave us this most versatile plant and now a few fallible human beings want to take it away."

I think we would be helping our children if we support the measures to make this plant legal. They would learn the facts and how the plant can actually be cultivated to support sustainable development. Hemp as fuel? You bet. Check -- http://www.hempcar.org/

Source: Metrowest Daily News (MA)
Author: Miryam Wiley
Published: Saturday, September 16, 2006
Copyright: 2006 MetroWest Daily News
 

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