August 6, 2009 – Quick: What single plant can you use to build, insulate, and heat a house; help build and run cars; turn into the finest textiles; use to make tortillas, cheese, veggie burgers, perfumes, skin creams, and suntan lotions – and also to get stoned?feat_2

The answer is none. But if you leave out the stoned part, you’re talking about hemp, the non-smokable variety of cannabis sativa, botanical cousin of the cannabis that gets you high. It’s currently grown legally in 30 industrial nations, has a history that dates back to the earliest days of man, was touted by George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, was probably used to make the first American flag, and – if given the chance – might help bring Texas farmers out of troubled times.

Unfortunately, industrial hemp’s association with pot has made it illegal to produce here in the United States for the last seven decades, forcing U.S. manufacturers to import it from China, Eastern Europe, and Canada. For a while during the 1990s it was illegal to import it any form but finished textiles. And even that was suspect under Bill Clinton’s drug czar, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who, in trying to ban hemp importation, once famously announced to a group of high-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs officials that “kids are boiling down their hemp shirts and mixing the essence with alcohol to make marijuana.”

That would be a pretty wacky comment coming from anyone, but to have national policy hinge on such impossible wrong-headedness set back hemp’s future in this country a long way.

Nobody’s using that rhetoric now, but the unease persists in many places, including at the Texas Farm Bureau. Spokesman Gene Hall told Fort Worth Weekly that while “hemp has Picture 6come up as a possible agricultural crop for Texas, it’s been a controversial subject.” Hall said that neither the Texas Farm Bureau, a nonprofit organization of farmers, ranchers, and rural families, nor the National Farm Bureau have supported industrial hemp as an ag crop “because there are concerns with the farm bureau supporting the raising of a crop that could be used for illicit drug use.”

But times are changing, even in Texas, and not everyone sees it the way Hall and the Farm Bureau do. This week, Oregon became the 16th state to pass some form of industrial hemp legislation, in hopes of making it possible for farmers to grow, own, and sell the nonsmokable but otherwise highly useful forms of hemp, the kinds with very low quantities of THC, the chemical in pot that gets you high.

State laws can’t trump the federal statute, which currently lists cannabis sativa as a controlled substance and prevent its cultivation. But U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Libertarian-leaning Republican from Lake Jackson, Texas, is trying to change that. He’s filed a bill to require the federal government to respect state laws on industrial hemp production. Paul has tried and failed at this before, and even he thinks the bill isn’t likely to pass this time either. But he’s gaining some support among his fellow House members and hoping for a friendlier attitude in the White House.

Individually, there are plenty of Texas farmers who are happy to hear about a potential new cash crop.

“If you tell me that there is a crop out there that could earn $400 an acre” – which is what Canadian farmers can earn with hemp – “well, I would have no problem growing it,” said Ralph Snyder, a farmer in North Central Texas. “Farmers would be lined up to grow it.”

Dan Brown, a North Texas leader of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), figures hemp could thrive easily in Texas. “Remember that it’s one of the fastest, most aggressive- growing biomasses in the world,” he said. “It isn’t called a weed for nothing.”

Hemp wasn’t always a banned crop. In colonial America its cultivation was mandated by British law. Back then it was used to make ropes and sails for ships, in fine art canvas, in paint and varnishes, as lamp oil, to make paper, and in some foods.

But the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that effectively outlawed smoking cannabis also essentially outlawed industrial hemp. The act was passed after publisher William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers waged a protracted and vociferous campaign against “marijuana” – a term he introduced to the American public. He ran stories that suggested that white women who smoked it couldn’t resist the lure of “negroes,” that it would bring out the devil in people and could cause otherwise normal people to become violent to the point of murder. Hollywood jumped on the campaign, releasing films such as Reefer Madness and Marijuana, Assassin of Youth, which showed previously virtuous young women jumping out of windows and becoming prostitutes after their first exposure to the evil weed.

Some saw Hearst’s campaign as a disguise for his real purpose – the elimination of industrial hemp, which was just coming into its own as a major modern crop, thanks to new machinery that allowed the hemp to be harvested and cleaned mechanically, rather than by hand. In 1933, Popular Mechanics magazine called industrial hemp “a billion-dollar crop” and suggested that with mechanization it would be used in making more than 25,000 products, including plastics, nylon, and paper.Picture 8

At about the same time, Hearst had invested in millions of acres of trees for paper pulp, and Dupont, the chemical company, had just received patents for making nylon from coal and plastic from oil. Competition from hemp products might have cost both Hearst and Dupont genuine fortunes. According to Industrial Hemp Now, an organization working to legalize hemp, “As a model of deception and orchestrated media manipulation, the anti-hemp crusade constitutes one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetuated on the American people. Few public relations campaigns in history can match its success in eradicating competition while transforming citizens into unknowing pawns of big business.” Those claims have been echoed by dozens of others.

World War II changed the federal attitude temporarily. Cut off from vital natural-fiber supplies by the war, the federal government was forced to ask farmers to grow hemp to aid the war effort, even producing the film Hemp For Victory. Afterward, it was back to hemp-is-banned business as usual – except for the millions of leftover wild hemp plants that still grow along roads and highways throughout the Midwest and are the focus of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “marijuana” eradication efforts, despite the fact that none of the plants have the ability to get anyone high.

In 1970, the newly created DEA developed the Controlled Substances Schedule, which placed drugs in categories according to their medical value and propensity for being abused. Morphine and cocaine, for instance, are in Schedule 2 because they have medical value but are highly likely to be abused. Cannabis, including industrial hemp, was placed in Schedule 1, meaning it has no recognized medical value and is highly likely to be abused. It can’t, under any circumstances, be prescribed by doctors.

The DEA later made an exception for industrial hemp, but those wishing to grow it must have a DEA license. In the past 20 years they’ve given out only a small handful of permits, and the restrictions – including round-the-clock guards on trial plots, exorbitantly expensive fencing, and regular inspections at the licensee’s expense – make it impossible to actually grow anything profitably. Most farmers who have applied for a permit never even receive a response.

Some industrial hemp promoters see a glimmer of hope with the Obama administration in place. “Little birdies have told me that Obama is going to treat hemp as a state’s right, just as his administration is doing with medical marijuana,” said a hemp product manufacturer who asked not to be named. “And if that’s the case, then it’s ‘all systems go’ in a number of states.”

The Obama administration has made enforcement of laws against the medical uses of marijuana the lowest priority for the Department of Justice in states that have passed legislation allowing such use. Farmers in states with laws permitting industrial hemp production are hoping he’ll do at least that much for them. Still, until federal law is changed, farmers are going to be wary about turning over land to a crop that might get pulled out from under them.

Ron Paul, the Houston-area congressman, introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in April, which would require the federal government to respect state laws with regards to hemp production. The bill has 11 co-sponsors.

In introducing the proposal, he noted, “Federal law concedes the safety of industrial hemp by allowing it to be legally imported for use as food.” He also said that the United States is the “only industrialized nation that prohibits industrial hemp cultivation.” Stores in this country already sell hemp seeds, oil, and food products, he pointed out, as well as paper, cloth, cosmetics, and carpet containing hemp. It has been used as an alternative fuel for cars, he said, and, most recently, in the door frames of about 1.5 million cars.

Paul said Tuesday that he holds out little hope for his bill. “If we could bring it to the floor and discuss it and teach people what it is, well, I think it would be passed overwhelmingly,” he said. “But right now, unfortunately, you still have a lot of people who think it’s a drug. And as long as they’re that uninformed, they’re not going to see the real issue.”

Creating a viable hemp industry in this country would take more than legislation, of course. Public awareness of, and demand for, hemp products would have to grow considerably before enough quantities would be needed to make it a profitable crop for large numbers of farmers.

When his country began allowing the production of industrial hemp 10 years ago, said Canadian crop specialist Harry Brook, farmers initially misjudged the market and overproduced. “Our farmers began growing hemp for fiber, and unfortunately, we didn’t have the facilities in place to convert that to paper and textiles and such, and so essentially it was a bust.”Picture 9

But the farmers switched to growing it for seed, used to make oil and food products. “Now that’s where they found a market,” Brook said. “And now there’s talk about reviving the fiber industry because [hemp] grows so fast and tall and produces so much fiber. But that simply won’t get off the ground until someone decides to make the investment in the factories that can utilize it.”

In ideal conditions, he said, hemp can produce about 5 tons of dried biomass per acre in 100 days – considerably more than any other crop. And with its varied uses, its potential is unlimited.

Gordon Scheifele is a retired certified plant breeder with the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture who is currently researching hemp. The stumbling block right now, he said, is that there isn’t a single commercial processor in North America that can produce the fibers in sufficient quantities to sustain various industries.

“We know we can produce it in Canada. We already are [doing so],” he said. “But the next step requires vision, will, determination, and effort. That includes the capital to make it all go.”

In this country, groups such as Hemp Industries of America and VoteHemp.org estimate the current annual sales of hemp products in 2008 totalled about $360 million. Designers such as Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein have produced everything from hemp-and-cotton-blend jersey knits to hemp-and-silk-blend clothing. Wal-Mart carries a line of hemp suntan lotion and skin creams; Whole Foods and Central Market carry several products from hemp bread and granola to frozen desserts. The Body Shop carries a line of skin-care products.

In San Marcos, Hemp Town Rock – The Hemp Store, has been operating since 1992. And near McKinney, DiaperCo.com sells a line of hemp diapers. But it’s all still just a drop in the bucket compared to what would happen if the crop were legalized.

“What’s being sold now and what can be sold when American farmers are given the green light to produce hemp are worlds apart,” said Oregon State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who introduced that state’s industrial hemp bill. “We’ve got a hemp food company in Portland, Living Harvest, that currently has $20 million in annual revenues, but they project that in five years they will have revenues of over $100 million annually. That’s exponential growth. And imagine what it could be if they could get their raw products closer to their production sites instead of having to import their seed and oil from Canada? If you bring your prices down, and you’ve got a good product, well, sales climb.

“We’re at a stage now where a lot of the American public recognizes that we were hoodwinked by the DEA and others into demonizing industrial hemp,” he said.

Lawrence Serbin, former national director for the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp and owner of Hemp Traders, a Los Angeles-based company, said this country is “really in a Catch-22” regarding hemp. “The reality is that hemp won’t become more popular in the U.S. until the price goes down, and the price won’t go down until it gets more popular. And the only way to make that price go down is to have us produce our own hemp.”

Serbin’s company sells a range of hemp products, from textiles to paper, but what he’s really concentrating on is fiberboard, which he makes from the hurds, the inner woody part of the hemp stalk left after the fiber has been removed. Typically, hurds are burned or left on the ground as mulch after harvest. He has to go to China to get them.

Beginning in 1999, he said, “We came in and collected the hurds and brought them to a factory and had them make up some medium-density fiberboards with it.” It’s taken him several years to come up with the product he’s just put on the market, a hemp fiberboard bound with a product derived from eucalyptus bark.

The advantage to his fiberboard, he said, is that it’s made without wood pulp and doesn’t use formaldehyde, a standard, inexpensive binder that is carcinogenic. The disadvantage is the price: His half-inch-thick, 4′-by-8′ boards go for about $28, nearly double what similar wood composite and particle boards go for in places like the Home Depot. His primary cost, he said, is transportation. The factory in China where part of the manufacturing takes place is far away from where the hemp is grown. And both hurds and boards are bulky, increasing the transit costs.

He hopes to solve part of the problem by building a factory next to the hemp fields in China, which he said could make his fiberboards “instantly competitive with regular wood boards.” If he could get the hurds from U.S. farmers, he said, he could sell his boards far more cheaply than what’s currently on the market.

Hemp boards, he said, could have “a huge impact on the housing market here in the U.S. … The effect on our forests would be immediate; new home prices would drop, and your house wouldn’t be full of formaldehyde.” He too is hoping that the Obama administration will tell federal law enforcement agencies to “leave it [hemp enforcement] to the states and then leave the states alone.”

Dave Seber, owner of Oregon’s Fibre Alternatives, believes industrial hemp is a “critical component” in saving both the economy and the environment in the United States.

“How are we going to stop carbon accumulation if we keep taking the trees down?” he asked. “We can’t, unless we grow hemp.” Hemp products, he said, could reduce the cost of building materials by 30 to 50 percent. “And that’s what we need to get the building industry, and therefore the economy, back on its feet.” He believes hemp could be used for furniture-quality boards. And he’s seen it used in Europe as a base for concrete, as a replacement for fiberglass insulation, and for plastics for everything from countertops to car parts.

Many countries in the European Union have begun levying fines on automakers and car sellers if their vehicles are not made of recyclable materials. That led European car Picture 10manufacturers to begin replacing traditional plastic parts with parts made from hemp, flax, and other natural fibers. In 2007 Lotus introduced its Hemp Eco Elise, a high-end car with a body largely made from hemp fiberglass and seats and other interior parts made largely from hemp/wool/flax materials.

“You’ve got to look at the big picture,” Seber said. “The food and textile industries, as well as paper and such, can definitely benefit from hemp products … but I think you have to look at the major industries if you really want to make the environmental and economic changes that this country and the whole world desperately need. Those are the housing industry, the biofuel industries, the plastics industries, and the automobile industries.”

Thus far, however, that potential revolution is passing Texas by.

Calls to a dozen legislators and agricultural committee members around Texas produced very little feedback and even less knowledge about hemp-based industries. A spokesman for State Rep. Charles Anderson of Waco, vice-chair of the Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, said he’d never heard the issue discussed. The Texas Agricultural Policy Council didn’t respond to e-mail queries. Brian Black, assistant to the commissioner for the Texas Department of Agriculture, said, “I’ve not heard of any discussion of industrial hemp in the agriculture industry in Texas.” Calls to the office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry – three areas that would be affected by hemp production – were not returned.

Even a member of the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, who asked not to be named, laughed at the notion of hemp being grown in Texas. “We can’t even get Texas interested in organic food research, so I doubt very much you’re going to find many politicians in Texas willing to discuss hemp research. That’s just not how people think here.”

Right now, there seems to be only one real hemp store left in Texas, out of the healthy crop that flourished here in hippier-dippier times. Rose Phillips’ Hemp Town Rock is still going strong. When she opened the store in 1992, Phillips said, she sold only products made from hemp – clothing, food, paper, twines, and such.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “I’ve had to add other products over the years because hemp is just plain expensive, what with all of it having to be imported. Now if we could grow it here, that would be different. You bring the price down, and everybody would buy hemp because it’s such a nice material and so durable. But as it is, well, with the economy down, except for Christmastime I don’t put out a lot of my better hemp clothes.”

She still carries hemp purses, wallets, t-shirts, and other products but admits they aren’t enough by themselves to keep her in business.

“There’s a big market” for hemp products,” she said. “But most people would rather just order it from a web page that can sell it cheaper than I can, what with store overhead. And then every major chain store carries some hemp products, so a store like mine isn’t the only place to get those things anymore.”

One of the local online stores that sells a lot of hemp products is DiaperCo.com. Based in Anna, just north of McKinney, the cloth diaper company has nearly 50 hemp-blend products for sale. Jessica Land, a DiaperCo manager, said the products sell well. “A lot of what we sell are hemp inserts – hemp cloth that goes inside pouches in the diaper. And everybody loves them because the hemp is so absorbent.”

Her client base is interested in environmentally friendly, natural products that are reusable, she said. “And what fits that description better than hemp?”

Has she ever had any clients decide not to buy hemp because of its connection with marijuana? She laughed. “I’ve never heard anyone say that, but our client base is pretty well informed,” she said. “I imagine there would be some people who would think that, though.”

Even if federal law were changed to allow unimpeded hemp production, Scheifele said he’s not sure whether Texas would be a prime growing area.

“Hemp requires moisture. The rule of thumb is that wherever you can grow corn you can grow good hemp,” he said. (Texas now ranks 12th among U.S. states in corn production.) Hemp is drought resistant, though, and winter crops probably would work here, Scheifele said. Beyond that, if it became a legal crop, he said, researchers would develop strains adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. In Australia, he said, scientists report they have developed a more drought-tolerant variety.

Don Wirtshafter, a lawyer and pioneer in the hemp movement who spent years researching hemp varieties in southeast Asia, said he thinks he’s already got seed stock that would work well in much of Texas without irrigation. His stock, brought over from Asia some years ago, is being kept alive in Canada, waiting a change in hemp’s legal status in this country, before he can try test plots all over the state.

He pointed out that in China, hemp is relegated to poorer-quality farmland. “If you’re growing for seed, you definitely need good nutrition, good soil,” he said. “But if you’re growing for fiber you can grow it almost anywhere.”

Wirtshafter called it an “agricultural tragedy” that thousands of varieties of hemp seed were lost when laws outlawing hemp cultivation were passed in this country and copied by much of the world.

Brown, the assistant director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of NORML, said that growing industrial hemp in Texas is a no-brainer. “Look at East Texas. There’s plenty of moisture there. It’s ideally suited for hemp cultivation. But with some irrigation you could grow hemp anywhere in the state.”

He pointed to the arid landscape of northern Mexico, home to tens of thousands of acres of low-grade marijuana. “If you can grow marijuana in those near-desert conditions, you could certainly grow hemp in southern Texas,” he said. “And with the ethanol craze going on and our focus on growing our own fuel stocks, it would be entirely possible to grow industrial hemp in quantities to replace American dependence on foreign oil. Hemp produces more than twice the biomass per acre that corn does, so it would be a natural for fuel, and we could grow a lot of it on land not currently utilized for agriculture, rather than using good soil to grow corn for ethanol.”

In fact, he said, traditionally independent Texas farmers could come to see hemp-growing as a right they’re being denied. “Texans don’t like their personal rights abridged,” he said. “And once they understand the difference between marijuana and industrial hemp, your average Texas farmer would probably demand the right to grow it.

Daniel Leshiker, who farms near Ralph Snyder in North Central Texas, agreed with Snyder that hemp sounds intriguing.

“We already need another crop, that’s for certain. I just planted 200 acres of sunflowers for their seed for the first time,” he said. “So while I don’t know much about hemp except they used to make rope with it, well, you tell me I could make money with it, and I’ll grow it. That’s what we are in the business to do.” By PETER GORMAN. Source.

July 30, 2009 – California voters may soon get a chance to weigh in on whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed by the state. If enacted, this may help thePicture 39 state’s budget by providing revenue from a brand new source, while also freeing up money that previously went to enforcement efforts against marijuana growing. Of course, marijuana would still be illegal under federal law, but this may be a turning point in the legalization movement — the point where politicians desperate for tax revenues see dollar signs instead of prison bars when looking at the cannabis plant.

And make no mistake — this is not medical marijuana we are talking about. From the wire service report:

A proposed ballot measure filed with the California attorney general’s office would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot. Homeowners could grow marijuana for personal use on garden plots up to 25 square feet.

Now, 25 square feet sounds like a lot, but it’s really only a plot five feet by five feet. Assumably, this was written into the ballot measure so marijuana (at least initially) wouldn’t be sown by agribusinesses in 1,000-acre fields. But even with the land-use restriction, the initiative is remarkable for the lack of other restrictions. No mention is made of “medical” or “medicine” or any of that — just “adults.”

There are even two ballot measures to choose from. The second one is even less restrictive:

The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 would set no specific limits on the amount of pot adults could possess or grow for personal use. The measure would repeal all local and state marijuana laws and clear the criminal record of anyone convicted of a pot-related offense.

Bet that would save a few dollars on prisons. And even if these ballot measures fail, state legislators are introducing bills to do exactly the same thing. So, while it should not in any way be seen as inevitable, it now appears possible that California may soon legalize and tax marijuana, used for recreational purposes.

While the concept of taxing marijuana is a new one for most people to consider, it actually has a long history. The very first federal law dealing with (pun intended) marijuana was the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Earlier laws outlawing “narcotics” had left out marijuana (or, in the spelling more common at the time, “marihuana”), so this was a more specific law dealing only with cannabis (and hemp). It ostensibly levied a tax on marijuana, which was widely used in medical products of the day. The tax was pretty low (the base rate for a doctor was one dollar for a tax stamp, per year), but the penalties for not paying the tax were the real purpose of the law. The law did not make marijuana illegal, so what the feds would clap you in prison for was not ponying up the tax. This had to be softened during World War II, when hemp was necessary for military supplies (hemp ropes, before nylon became widespread) and the planting of hemp was actually encouraged by the federal government (as in the “Hemp for Victory” movie put out by the feds in 1942).

Later, in the 1950s, marijuana was flat-out made illegal at the federal level. And then, at the beginning of the 1970s, the Controlled Substances Act codified all illegal drugs, and superceded the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.

But taxing illegal drugs, including marijuana, didn’t end there. The next iteration of taxing marijuana came as a result of individual states being annoyed at the federal government. I believe the first of these was Arizona, which (in the late 1970s and early 1980s) had to watch as the feds made a lot of money off the drug traffickers moving through their (border) state. In the 1980s, the big weapon used in the Drug War was property confiscation. So the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would catch a semi truck full of bales of weed on an Arizona highway, and they would impound the truck. Later, they’d sell the truck in a government auction, and the DEA got to keep the money. Arizona was annoyed at being cut out of the profits, so they instituted a state tax on marijuana and other illegal drugs. This way, when the semi was auctioned, they could claim “unpaid taxes” on the cargo, and get their cut of the money raised. Many other states followed suit, and passed their own drug taxes for the same purpose — forcing the feds to share the spoils. They all sold (and some still sell) drug tax stamps for this purpose (Nebraska’s stamp unquestionably has the most creative design).

So, once again, the purpose of the tax was disingenuous. The states had no interest in making drugs legal, they just wanted a cut from any busts the feds made in their state. But now, for the first time, California seems to be seriously considering both legalization and taxation simultaneously — in other words, they are interested in the tax revenues themselves, rather than a back-door method of gaining windfall taxes from federal busts.

But I would caution the state lawmakers — and the people advocating for the new laws — to be conservative in estimating the revenue gained from these taxes. This is a by-product of the 100-year history of the Drug War itself. When you read in a newspaper that “$6 million worth of drugs captured” this dollar amount is often vastly overstated. And, even taking such estimates seriously, there’s a factor that most people don’t even take into consideration, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Say you want to estimate how much money California would make off a new marijuana tax. You come up with an estimate of how much pot is sold in the state (let’s call it $100 million, just for argument’s sake — since I have no idea what the actual figure is). You then estimate how much the market will grow, due to it now being legal. But then you’ve got to subtract anyone who grows their own at home, since they won’t be selling it to anyone (the tax is usually levied on point of sale, but I guess if it was a production tax they’d theoretically tax peoples’ back gardens as well). Finally, you come up with a figure.

But the big factor most people will miss is that the price of something which was previously illegal will go down if it is made legal. The price of moonshine during Prohibition was about ten times what hard alcohol sold for afterwards. Meaning, overnight, that “$100 million” market becomes “$10 million.” When something is illegal, most of the price is for the risk involved in producing it and getting it to the customer. Remove the risk, the price always drops. Always. Especially if a law passes without a “25 square foot” restriction, because then farmers out in California’s Central Valley will start growing massive amounts of marijuana (and as every economist knows, when the supply goes up, the price goes down).

So California should be careful when estimating what effect a (legal) marijuana tax would have on the state’s coffers. An easy way to avoid some of this problem would be to design the tax on “weight” rather than as a sales tax (percent of purchase price, in other words). Then the projections for anticipated revenue might be a little easier to make, because the price per ounce to the customer wouldn’t really matter, as the state would be guaranteed a certain dollar amount no matter how low it went.

A recent poll showed that 56% of California voters already approve of the concept of legalizing and taxing marijuana for personal, recreational use. Meaning that a ballot initiative has a fairly good chance of passing. I would just caution everyone to be realistic when making estimates as to how much tax revenue would be raised by doing so. California has such massive budget problems right now that a marijuana tax certainly couldn’t hurt the state’s cash flow. And, with the voters apparently ready to approve such a scheme, it looks entirely possible that it could happen. But overestimating the revenues expected could actually undermine the case for doing so. The advocates for legalization and taxation should be careful when drawing up their estimates, and keep their promises of tax revenue realistic, to better convince voters of the practicality of the idea. By Chris Weigant.

July 21, 2009 – It will come as absolutely no surprise to some, that in 1971, the year British Petroleum took out the largest bank loan in history to finance its offshore oil explorations (a statistic which still stands today), the serving British government implemented the Misuse of Drugs act. A law which would take away the cannabis plant from those that need it most, forever.Picture 12

Ever since, successive governments have told the wider population how bad cannabis is for us. Indeed the evidence delivered through a carefully crafted press campaign which spans almost a century, has been delivered with such force and magnitude, the very mention of the word ‘Cannabis’ these days brings about much sharp-intaking-of-breath, accompanied by lots of nudge’s and wink’s.

But does it really deserve the bad rap it gets in the press? Because the fact is, and whether the British Government, the police or even President Obama himself will admit it in public, the much maligned cannabis plant is the most often used recreational illicit narcotic in the world. And with regular user numbers reaching over 250 million around the world, and barely a ripple of adverse reactions to the active elements in the marijuana plant, it could also quite possibly be the safest substance in the world. According to their own statistics.

Now before all our Conservative readers change the channel I would like to present for you some evidence.

Legalize Cannabis? Not anytime soon
All around the globe the politics surrounding cannabis present us with mixed up, convoluted theories. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it “lethal”, even though half of his serving Cabinet admitted using it whilst they climbed the political ladder from University to Whitehall. That’s a fact.

President Obama famously admitted not only to using cannabis, but also to inhaling..frequently, stating “Thats the point, right?”, when he was asked about his past drug use in the Presidential Elections in 2008 and rather than bore the pants off the long-suffering reader with a long and very well documented list of who inhaled, suffice to say enough people of influence and power have used cannabis recreationally, without any ill-harm coming to them, to push through a decision to decriminalize the substance if they so desired.

So its fair to assume no matter how much the lobbyists spend in communicating with the powers that be, due to how the political system actually works, career politicians can just keep causing delay after delay, keeping cannabis illegal pretty much as long as they want to, and regardless of what the electorate wants.

Yes we can? (Oh no we can’t!)
Which is NOT exactly the new democratic beginning we were promised when Obama was swept to power, is it? One of the primary arguments for NOT legalizing cannabis is its propensity to induce amotivational behavior – the tendency not to care, when you really should care.

But the list of politicians, actors, industrialists and sportsmen and women, including the Olympian with the largest haul of gold medals to date, (Michael Phelps) who admit to using cannabis disproves this theory out of hand.

Motivation
If you give a person the motivation to succeed a large majority of them will. So blaming cannabis for the failings of humanity is nothing more than a convenient cop out. And its a cop out which no longer holds any water.

United Nations
The health argument against cannabis is a campaign which is being orchestrated by the highest office within the United Nations. A global quango inspired by a political machine more set on finding ‘jobs for the boys’ than actually solving the worlds drug problems.

And the motivations behind such a steadfast campaign for an unrealistic pipe dream in which abstinence is the key word in a nations drugs policy can only be speculated, but one thing is for sure. You can bet its down to money somewhere along the line.

1937 Marijuana Tax Act
When the campaign against the drug which ‘makes blacks think they’re as good as whites’ was presented to US congress by Harry Anslinger in 1937, the resultant Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana or cannabis, but levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp or marijuana.

The Act did however include penalty provisions and a complex Regulation 1 codifying the elaborate rules of enforcement to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers were subject. Violation of these procedures could result in a fine of up to $2000 (a kings ransom back then) and five years’ imprisonment.

The net effect was to increase the risk for anyone dealing in the substance. It also signaled the start of the longest lasting conflict in the history of mankind. The drug war.

In 1937 its worth remembering the oil industry was still in its infancy. We simply didn’t have the convenience of rotary moulded plastics, and liquid resins with which to fit out a nations war machine, so when the US were drawn irresistibly into the second world war on December 7th 1941 with the devastating attack on Pearl Harbour, all of a sudden there was a materials crisis which needed the nations full attention.

Hemp for Victory
The American government’s answer to the crisis was to make a movie. But not just another old Ronald Regan movie. This was a film which was designed to encourage all of the farmers whose livelihoods had recently been removed by the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, to step up to the plate and grow Hemp for Victory. Again.

The 1942 movie encouraged and taught farmers to grow variants of hemp suitable as raw material for hawsers used by the U.S. Navy and the Merchant Marine, prior to the adoption of Nylon rope – an oil industry by-product which was not yet widely available.

The hemp was also used as a substitute for other fibrous materials that were blocked by Japan. Materials for the construction of uniforms, webbing, canvas for tents, truck-backs and footwear (the list is endless) and it was quickly realized humanity was not yet ready to live without industrial hemp. Maybe we could live without it, but we couldn’t win a war!

Soon afterward every person with some spare ground was playing their part in the overall victory, by growing hemp.

Just how versatile IS hemp?
Hemp is used for a wide variety of purposes, including the manufacture of cordage of varying tensile strength, clothing, and nutritional products.

The long (hemp grows tall) bast fibers can be used in 100% hemp products, but are commonly blended with other organic fibers such as flax, cotton or silk, for apparel and furnishings, most commonly at a 55%/45% hemp/cotton blend.

The inner two fibers of hemp are more woody, and are more often used in non-woven items and other industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding, insulation materials and litter.

More recently a British company has found a lime/hemp mix which is ideal for building ‘carbon neutral houses’ cheaply and quickly.

Natural ‘Organic’ Plastics
The oil from the fruits (“seeds”) dries on exposure to air (similar to linseed oil) and is sometimes used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics.

Many of these products which today we rely on the oil industry to produce for us.

Have I seen the movie? What movie?
Interestingly, before 1989, the ‘Hemp For Victory’ film was relatively unknown, and the United States Department of Agriculture library and the Library of Congress told all interested parties that no such movie was made by the USDA or any branch of the U.S. government.

But much to their chagrin, two VHS copies were recovered and donated to the Library of Congress on May 19, 1989 by Maria Farrow, Carl Packard, and the ‘Grandfather’ of hemp, Jack Herer.

We can only ponder why the US government would deny all knowledge of a film it made.

Hemp Nutrition
Hemp nutrition is also a hot potato at the moment. Due to it being able to give the human body an almost perfect ratio of omega 3, 6 and 9, its an ideal replacement which could help save our struggling deep-sea stocks.

Perhaps surprisingly this combination of essential fatty acids, (they’re called essential because we can’t make them ourselves), minerals and vitamins is delivered in its most rudimentary form. A seed.

But before we can actually get at it, we need to get the good stuff out, and we achieve this by cold pressing the seed, and harvesting the valuable hemp seed oil.

A New ‘Oil’ Industry?
Cold pressing hemp seed oil is a practice which can be traced back through time. The hemp seed has traditionally provided the entire oil requirements for many races, just as the Olive continues to do today.

Just over a decade ago a Canadian entreprenour called Mike Fata acquired some cold-oil pressing equipment and started supplying four local health food shops in Canada with fresh cold pressed hemp seed culinary oil.

11 years on and his company Manitoba Harvest is one of the most well-known hemp nutrition vendors in the world, with an annual turnover which is counted in the tens of millions of dollars. From little acorns…

Drill your own oil
As more people become aware of the benefits of a high hemp seed diet, so the markets require new products to furnish the demand. One British company to take advantage of the rise in hemp’s popularity has a particularly GOOD story to tell.

Good Oil
Henry Braham, is a Director of Photography, and Glynis Murray, a Movie Producer. They met around 15 years ago, when filming together.

Something they still do in fact – their latest film is Everybody’s Fine , with Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore.

Soon after they met they found they had more in common than movies – both grew up on farms.

Henry & Glynis bought Collabear Farm in 1996, and started farming themselves.

Henry says that they never set out to produce a culinary oil, “like all the best journeys, we never had a specific destination in mind.”

They started by looking at options for sustainable farming.

Hemp had just been reintroduced to the UK – a crop that had been key to the economy in Northern Europe for centuries, but had fallen out of fashion in recent years.

It fitted their requirements perfectly. Hemp is hugely beneficial to the environment, and can be used in an impressive range of eco friendly products. It meant they could grow a crop that was both sustainable and profitable.

Henry and Glynis grew hemp successfully for fibre – used to manufacture the interiors of Mercedes and BMW 5 and 3 series cars. But it was only when they picked and tasted the seeds in the fields that they were inspired to develop a culinary oil.

‘They were delicious,’ says Henry.

‘And then we began to learn all about the incredible health properties of hemp seed. It is very high in essential fats, has about half the saturated fats of olive oil and is the most naturally perfect oil in terms of omega -3 and -6.’

But getting the oil to taste as good as the raw hemp seed wasn’t easy.

‘It took us ages to get it right,’ explains Glynis. ‘It was a question of trial and error. And, when you’re growing a crop, you do one trial, have your error, and then have to wait another year.’ It was 10 years before they perfected the harvesting and pressing of the seeds to produce an oil that tastes like the seed in the field. Hence why GOOD Hemp Seed Oil today tastes so GOOD!

But a great taste isn’t the only consideration. Hemp seed oil will run a power station just as readily as it will power a car engine or a domestic central heating system. And when you take into account for an investment of around £10,000 every community in Wales could theoretically own its own hemp seed oil press, the ramifications for the petroleum industry start to manifest a little more clearly.

Hemp in Wales
Imagine a farmer growing hemp on his own land, never having to buy fuel oil again for his machinery, or central heating oil to warm his farm house?

Electricity from a ‘green’ oil electricity generator is a not too distant option, making the entire farm self-sufficient power-wise.

As a one-off, as is the case of Henry Braham and Glynis Murray above to a degree, it makes for a novel tale. But if the concept were taken up on a much wider scale you can be sure the petroleum industry would have something to say about it.

Conspiracy Theory
So the government fans the flames of ambiguity by publishing this story or that regarding cannabis-the-drug.

Its a health risk. It could cause cancer. It could cause mental illness, and pressure-groups spring up, run by mothers who failed as mothers, and who “lost their children to cannabis”.

But the fact is the numbers of people who have an adverse reaction to cannabis are precious few in relation to how many actually use it.

In the meantime around 7 million UK citizens and in the region of 240 million others elsewhere around the world sit wondering what all the fuss is about.

Climate Change
Simply by deploying hemp in a number of situations which are currently fueled by fossil oils, we could substantially reduce the amount of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere every single year, so it comes as a huge surprise to hear not one global leader mention hemp playing a part in any of their plans to reduce Co2 levels.

The fact is the petroleum industry holds the world in its vice like grip, and any talk of further freeing up the industrial hemp plant would doubtless lead to sanctions from OPEC – The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. A powerful council indeed, and one which has in its power the ability to raise the price of crude oil from $65 to $140 per barrel in under a year, with the huge financial burden this would (and did) place on society as a result.

In the United Kingdom, when the oil industry and the government meet they do so not at the place of work of the government, in London.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequor must fly to the far north of Scotland, to Aberdeen, to meet the oil men, and there are not many industries in the UK which have this financial hold over the government. One or two at the most.

Chicken & Egg
Going back to 1937 its fair to assume that when Harry Anslinger appeared before the US Congress, an appearance which brought about the implementation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, he did so (as the story goes), to stop the influence of marijuana being brought in from Mexico with the influx of foreign workers which had traveled north in the hunt for work, as well as to escape Pancho Villa’s marauding revolutionary army.

At least, that’s how history will tell it.

However, the fact is, the move was motivated not by any great public health concerns, but by how much money a few wealthy men stood to lose from their infantile petroleum explorations.

Explorations which went on to create some of the wealthiest families on the planet and in doing so, could well have destroyed our fragile eco-system for good.

But all is not lost, and if we can disentangle cannabis-the-drug, and industrial hemp for long enough to attract some outside investment, who knows where that will end?

What we do know though, is the petroleum industry stands to be hit hardest, should cannabis, (and as a result industrial hemp) ever become legalized.

So don’t hold your breath waiting.

For everything you ever wanted to know about the fantastic hemp plant but didn’t know who to ask, please visit http://www.jackherer.com/

For more information about GOOD Oil, please visit their website which can be found at; http://www.goodwebsite.co.uk

Source.

February 19th, 2009 – Hemp is a controversial material, part of the famous family of plants known as Cannabis Sativa. Hemp grown for industrial use is very low in THC the psychoactive chemical in its famous sister marijuana thus making industrial hemp useless as a drug.

Ironically, Hemp powered cars was the dream of both Henry Ford and Rudolf Diesel. However, gasoline powered engines became so cheap to manufacturer and were easy to maintain so they caught on in the automotive industry even though the pioneers had other dreams.

Now that we’ve nearly liquidated the world’s oil reserves we should take a look back at the pioneers of the automotive industry’s original ideas. Full article here.

Watch the ‘Hemp for Victory’ Video: