Hemp in the States
By Mark Harrison, TNC contributing writer
There are over 25,000 known uses for industrial hemp, and
it's grown commercially in about 30 countries around the world.
Anything made from wood or plastic can be made from hemp. An
acre of hemp produces the same amount of paper that requires
4.1 acres of treesin 100 days, not 30 years. Without
suggesting that any connection exists between the timber industry
and industrial hemp prohibition, I'll simply ask if a bear has
a bowel movement in the woods and move on to a few hemp issues
around the nation.
Twenty-seven states in the US have passed laws and legislation
favoring industrial hemp, according to the North American Industrial
Hemp Council. All large-scale hemp permits have been denied by
the DEA, but permits for expensive research plots in a few states
have been issued. Hawaii's permit for the Industrial Hemp Research
Project was made possible by a $200,000 grant from Alterna, the
maker of hemp seed hair products.
Though states are saying yes to hemp, the DEA has been saying
no with restrictions and requirements. A 12-foot-tall chain-link
fence topped with razor wire and a 24-hour infrared security
system scanning the property protects Hawaii's quarter-acre plot.
This is required because the DEA makes no distinction between
marijuana and industrial hemp, though just an insignificant amount
of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can
be found in the latter.
From Kentucky, former Republican Governor and hemp activist Louie
Nunn drove 24 hours to deliver 25 bales of raw hemp and 60 bags
of processed hemp to the Oglala tribe in South Dakota last fall.
The DEA raided the 4-acre hemp crop inside the Pine Ridge reservation
in August, leaving many people in this poorest area of the Sioux
nation unprepared for winter. The Oglala grow hemp for horse
bedding and insulation in environmental-friendly homes. The Kentucky
Hemp Growers Cooperation saved more than the day when they and
Governor Nunn delivered their gift to the grateful people of
Pine Ridge. The hemp was grown in Canada, shipped to Kentucky
and trucked to South Dakota. This roundabout gesture was both
generous and symbolic. The Oglala people need the hemp and America
needs a lesson about the lunacy of prohibition. The lesson continues
this spring when the Oglala sow their hemp seeds.
South Dakota State Congressman Bob Webber said, "Legalization
of hemp would help ensure the survival of the small family farmer."
Webber is a Republican and a farmer. He remembers when his father
grew hemp on the family farm after World War Two. "The government
would give you the seed because we were short on hemp from other
But opponents believe the benefits of industrial hemp are exaggerated
and not worth the risks. The risks, according to the DEA, is
that it would be difficult for hovering agents to distinguish
between hemp and marijuana plantations and that legalization
would send a pro-drug message. Meanwhile, eight out of ten people
in South Dakota support legalizing hemp, according to a poll
taken in January.
In North Dakota, Governor Schafer said," Any person in the
state may plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell and buy
industrial hemp." The resilient hemp seed has been successfully
planted in the politics of most states around the country. And
being the fast-growing weed that it is, a decided majority of
Americans now support decriminalizing industrial hemp.
In Eastern Washington State the region's only major daily newspaper,
The Spokesman-Review, otherwise known for its conservative viewpoints,
printed Editor Chris Peck's column headed "Hemp could provide
high for economy". Peck, like other economic realists, has
been gathering information and support from area grain farmers
who would grow hemp if allowed. Peck quotes Mark Schoesler, a
young farmer from Ritzville (WA) and 9th District Republican
State senator, "As a society I think we have gone past the
point of fearing industrial hemp as the demon weed and could
accept it as an industrial product."
Thanks to Kim Hanna for sending Razor Wire editors the following
assessment by Rob Stewart of the Massachusetts ballot initiative
involving drug treatment/forfeiture which lost in the November
Stewart reports that on the day after the election the Associated
Press found that Question 8 - Drug Laws - had 1,174,202 yes votes
(favoring changes in forfeiture/treatment) and 1,315,976 no votes,
or 47% and 53% respectively. Stewart wrote, "The Boston
Herald poll before the vote reported we had 47% support among
likely voters with 26% still undecided. It's as though all the
undecided voters pulled the No lever on voting day."
First, the outcome suggests that Question 8 was just too complex
for most voters (to quote the Champion of the Obvious). Although
it passed judicial scrutiny about whether its components were
clearly related to one another, Question 8 was too ambitious
for the majority of voters - which leads to the second point.
Even though the opposition did not form a "No on 8"
committee until the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 30th, they were
very effective in getting their message out there - and that
job was all the easier because they could attack the initiative's
extreme points. The menacing drug trafficker could, according
to the other side, claim to be "at risk" of addiction
and escape prosecution. And isn't everyone "at risk"
of drug dependency? It may sound silly, but the Globe bought
it, saying that the justice system would be held hostage by this
claim, which would "eliminate" judicial discretion.
Moreover, the district attorneys and police chiefs recruited
other well-known political figures, and they won over all but
a couple editorial boards in the state. Our Coalition was coldly
received by some, and even frozen out by a few. Even when the
New Bedford Standard-Times endorsed Question 8, the one dissenting
editor wrote his own No column siding with his district attorney.
This is not about sour grapes. The campaign was run and funded
on the assumption that our opponents - as public officials -
would not be able to buy much or any advertising. When they eventually
did buy radio ads toward the end, we countered with our ad, but
the real damage was done in the widespread media coverage dominated
by the other side's point of view.
The main message that I want to leave you with is that, despite
these problems, we came within six percent (141,775 votes) of
winning. The burden in an initiative campaign is on the Yes side
because getting a Yes vote requires much more work than getting
a No vote.
Even the unopposed Questions 1 and 7 - for redistricting and
a tax deduction for charitable contributions - got nearly one
No vote for every two Yes votes. The fact that our opposition
barely defeated this law indicates that there are achievable
goals still ahead. But Question 8 itself - or some initiative
substantially similar to it - is barred by the constitution from
the ballot until the 2006 election at the earliest.
Rob Stewart - for The Coalition for Fair Treatment McCormack
P.O. Box 1555 Boston, MA 02104 Tel: (617) 330-8777 Fax: (617)
According to a story by John Sanko of Rocky Mountain News'
Capitol Bureau, a Denver lawmaker, alarmed about soaring prison
costs, couldn't persuade a Senate committee in early-February
to clamp a two-year moratorium on prison construction. Sen. Ken
Gordon, D-Denver, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, joined
three minority Republican lawmakers in rejecting the bill 4-3.
Gordon told Sen. Penfield Tate, sponsor of SB 177, that he agreed
with his goals and would work with him on a solution. But he
said he couldn't envision "how we can do comprehensive reform
without including the district attorneys and the governor's office."
Tate, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, wanted a moratorium
on prison construction while a study was made of Colorado's drug
and sentencing laws. SB 177 also would have repealed mandatory
minimum drug sentencing laws and would have established a citizens
review council in the Department of Corrections. "We are
hemorrhaging money to pay for the growing prison budget with
no end in sight," Tate said.
Allison Morgan, representing the state Department of Corrections,
warned that Colorado is expected to have a 6,000-bed shortfall
in its prisons by June 2006 if it does nothing. Projections call
for the state's prison population, now at 16,600, to reach nearly
24,000 in 5 years. Ann Terry of the Colorado District Attorneys
Council and Peg Ackerman, representing the County Sheriffs of
Colorado, voiced opposition to the bill.
Terry disagreed with complaints by Tate and other supporters
of the bill that many of those in prison are there for minor
drug violations. "We're not talking about people who are
just using marijuana recreationally," she insisted. "It's
not a good public policy statement to say we think drug offenders
are not violent. They are violent."
Ackerman warned the moratorium could result in state inmates
being backed up in county jails as they were several years ago.
Christie Donner, statewide coordinator for the Colorado Prison
Moratorium Coalition, made up of more than 80 organizations and
faith communities, said it makes no sense for the state to continue
spending millions of dollars to build facilities. "If we
build them, you're going to fill them," she said. Donner
argued that treatment, education and rehabilitation is what works
- not simply warehousing people in prisons.
Tate noted this was the third year he had carried legislation
seeking a moratorium. "If we continue to look at prison
construction as a form of economic development in our state,
we're lost," Tate said.
(Source: Western Prison Project, www.westernprisonproject.org)