July 30, 2009 – Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced last week his intent to take pen in hand and make Oregon the seventh state to legalize the growing of hemp.1207324301

By signing into law Senate Bill 676, which allows farmers to grow hemp statewide and was passed by a veto-proof 27-2 margin, Kulongoski is among the few politicians taking small steps to reverse an agricultural mistake made 72 years ago.

Small steps, unfortunately, are the biggest ones Oregon lawmakers could take because hemp is still banned by federal law.

Oregon became the first Western state to legalize the growing of hemp since 1999, adding to a slowly building snowball of states that could eventually push the U.S. Legislature to remove the archaic and unnecessary ban.

Hemp growing was banned for all the wrong reasons seven decades ago. Its illegalization has a somewhat complicated history that was largely due to business considerations, rather than drug concerns, involving powerful figures of the time and some slick political maneuvering. Maneuvering that stripped away hemp and its benefits for most of the 20th century, long after America’s founding fathers, including George Washington, were known to cultivate the plant on their own land.

The short version, which is by no means the complete story, is this: Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper mogul, are largely to blame. Hearst owned hundreds of acres of timber. As hemp-based paper became more cost effective, the value of such land was threatened. Anslinger fueled anti-hemp propaganda that Hearst published in his newspapers. In 1937, Anslinger presented Congress with a ban against hemp and cannabis, which passed.

Unfortunately, some people—many of whom compose our federal Legislature—still believe hemp and marijuana are equally dangerous.

Hemp is a non-hallucinogenic variety of the cannabis sativa plant. You could smoke hemp for days and never feel anything more than throat irritation.

This is a shortsighted view of an agricultural plant that can be manufactured more cheaply and used for more products than many of the standard fibers used for clothing, rope, paper, food and other everyday objects.

America spends about $360 million per year importing hemp, according to the Eugene Register-Guard—money that could benefit local farmers, while the cheaper costs of local cultivation would translate into higher profits for local storeowners.

Opponents of decriminalization contend that it will increase marijuana growing on Oregon farms and thus heighten use of the drug in the region.

Oregon state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a supporter of legalizing hemp since 1997, optimistically predicts the national ban will be lifted in about two years with increased pressure on the federal level. Politicians of traditionally conservative states aren’t likely to support the move, while political campaigns nationwide receive money from companies that would not like to see hemp’s competition in the marketplace.

Let’s hope Prozanski is right that change is coming. Let’s hope U.S. lawmakers will refuse to succumb to political pandering this time around and reverse a terrible mistake. by Ben Lundin. Source.

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