Wear It - Eat It - Drive It - Just Don't Grow It

Wear It - Eat It - Drive It - Just Don't Grow It
Posted by CN Staff on July 06, 2007 at 05:30:28 PT
By Ann Woolner
USA -- You can buy it at any Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's or health-food cooperative. Look for it among the high-fiber cereal, the Inulin, the flax seeds. Pick up the powdered version to sprinkle green protein on your salad. Buy the granola and just try not to gobble it up immediately. Hemp, or more specifically, its seed and oil, tastes good (usually). It makes hemp butter, hemp bread, hemp bars and hemp seeds, which look like sesame. All of it is good for you, though none of it will get you high.
You are surrounded by hemp if you're driving a Mercedes- Benz with interior panels molded from the fiber. Hemp oils show up in body lotions and lip balms. In the U.S., hemp oil, fiber and hulled seeds are legal to eat, drink, buy, sell, import, turn into jewelry, make into clothes and smear on your body. The peculiar thing is that the plant that yields all that tasty, healthy and useful stuff can't be grown legally in the U.S., at least not without permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration. So far, the nation's drug enforcers haven't been high on the idea of hemp farming. Let Canadians produce it, which they do. Let Americans import it, which we do, and not just from Canada. We get hemp products from China, Romania, Hungary, Italy, the U.K., Switzerland and India. Why not grow our own?  Happy Hemp Farmers Two North Dakota farmers, peering over the border at happy hemp farmers in Canada, filed suit against the DEA last month seeking a ruling that would keep the agency off their backs if they cultivate hemp. ``Industrial hemp is just one other crop that farmers ought to be allowed to plant,'' North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said in a recent conference call with reporters. The state has legalized hemp farming, written strict rules to govern it and set up a regulatory structure to license and monitor it. The two suing farmers are licensed by the state but worry that the DEA will swoop in, destroy their crop and arrest them. It's not a ridiculous thought. ``There's no difference between the hemp plant and the marijuana plant under the law,'' says DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney. Here's the deal. Hemp and marijuana are the same plant, Cannabis sativa L, with dissimilar chemical make-ups. Due to different levels of the intoxicant THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, one will get you high. The other won't.  No THC There is no THC in the parts of the hemp plant that are legal for Americans to import, buy, sell and make into granola or car parts. That would be stalk fiber, shelled seeds and oil made from sterilized seed. The problem is that there is no way to grow those parts of the hemp plant without growing the leaves and flowers, which do contain low levels of THC. Hemp advocates say smoking even the most potent parts of the hemp plant wouldn't transport anyone into a state of nirvana or stupor. They contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to Canada's agriculture department. That is between one-tenth to one-twentieth the average THC content for domestic, Mexican or Colombian marijuana, according to the DEA. The agency says they average 4 percent to 6 percent THC, with some samples running at 25 percent. Be that as it may, U.S. drug law lists THC, along with marijuana, as a Schedule I substance under strict control by the DEA. It also defines marijuana as the cannabis plant.  Dangerous Drug The scheduling means that Congress has deemed any level of THC, like heroin, to be dangerous, without medical value and carrying a high potential for abuse. ``THC is the active ingredient that's illegal under the law,'' Courtney says. If the farmers of North Dakota think that is wrong, they should lobby Congress to change the law, he says. A bill in the House sponsored by Republican maverick Ron Paul of Texas would put industrial hemp beyond the DEA's reach by amending the drug law. It would be up to states to decide whether and how to allow hemp cultivation. While that bill languishes, North Dakotans want to plant without fear of arrest. Over the border, meanwhile, Canada had 48,000 acres in hemp cultivation last year, double the area from the previous year, according to Health Canada, the government agency that licenses hemp farmers.  Outlawed in Canada That's not much, until you consider that hemp farming was outlawed in Canada until 1998, and that in 2001 the DEA tried to halt the sale of hemp food products in the U.S., which is Canada's biggest hemp customer. That litigation ended in 2004, when a federal appeals court essentially said the DEA position was ridiculous. Canada now loves the crop it used to ban. Health Canada waxes rhapsodic on the topic: ``It thrives without herbicides, it reinvigorates the soil, it requires less water than cotton, it matures in three to four months and it can yield four times as much paper as trees.'' No wonder other countries that used to outlaw it now embrace it, so that at least 30 nations grow hemp, according to a Congressional Research Service report in March. ``The United States is the only developed nation in which the production of industrial hemp is not permitted,'' the report said. It is more than a mere legal technicality that keeps hemp farming off U.S. soil. Drug enforcers fear it would complicate anti-marijuana efforts and would conflict with the government's anti-drug message. But you can write regulations, as North Dakota and Canada have, to ensure that hemp fields don't hurt marijuana enforcement. As for the government's message, surely it is undermined, not enhanced, by banning a perfectly innocuous, non- intoxicating, useful and healthy product. Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.Source: (USA)Author: Ann WoolnerPublished: July 6, 2007Copyright: 2007 Bloomberg L.P. Contact: awoolner Website: Hemp Archives
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