Congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian from Texas and an obstetrician who has delivered over 6000 babies, is trying to deliver our farmers from a bureaucratic medievalism in Washington that keeps saying "No" to growing industrial hemp.
Many farmers want to grow this 5000 year old long fiber plant that has been turned into thousands of products since being domesticated by the ancient Chinese. That is their heresy. The enforcer is the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Washington, DC, which has placed industrial hemp on its proscribed list next to marijuana.
Detailed petitions signed by agricultural groups, agricultural commissioners, International Paper Co. and others were presented to both Clinton and Bush to take industrial hemp off the DEA list and let the states allow farmers to grow it. The DEA turned the petitions down cold.
The arguments for this great, sturdy and environmentally benign plant are legion. In over 30 countries where it is commercially grown, including Canada, France, China and Romania, industrial hemp has been used to produce hemp food, hemp fuel, hemp paper, hemp cloth, hemp cosmetics, hemp carpet and even hemp door frames (Ford and Mercedes).
Factories, food stores and paper manufacturers are free to import raw hemp or finished hemp materials from foreign countries. Last year, about $250 million worth of hemp products were purchased from abroad. But federal law in the US prohibits farmers or anyone else from growing it on US soil.
Why? The DEA says that industrial hemp grown next to marijuana can camouflage and impede law enforcement against the latter. Strange. This problem doesn't bother Canadian police authorities or similar officials in other nations. Besides, since industrial hemp is only 1/3 of 1 percent THC, growing it next to marijuana would cross-pollinate and dilute the illegal marijuana plants. No marijuana grower wants industrial hemp anywhere near his or her pot plots.
You can smoke a bushel of industrial hemp and not get high. Far too little THC. Like poppy seeds on bread. You may, however, get a headache, if you try.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew industrial hemp on their farms. Drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. Imagine the billions of trees and tons of bleach chemicals which would have been saved were hemp a big source of paper. A multi-billion dollar a year farm crop blocked.
During World War II, hemp was made into very strong rope for the war effort. The Department of Agriculture made a film "Hemp for Victory" to encourage more cultivation.
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Enter Ron Paul, the courageous. Numerous colleagues of Rep. Paul, in both the House and Senate, believe as he does regarding the legalization of industrial hemp farming, but they are afraid to go public lest they be accused of being "soft on drugs". This is true, for example, of the North Dakota Congressional delegation, in spite of overwhelming private and public support for farmers being allowed to plant it in their spacious state.
On June 23, 2005, Congressman Paul introduced HR 3037, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. The bill requires the federal government to respect state laws (already five of them) allowing the growing of industrial hemp. Immediately, Congressmen Peter Stark (D - CA) and Jim McDermott (D - WA) co-sponsored the legislation.
Rep. Paul's announcement was made during lunchtime in the Rayburn Office Building at the House of Representatives. Denis Cicero, owner of the Galaxy Global Eatery in New York City, served up a delicious and nutritious luncheon featuring industrial hemp. Speaking were two leading North Dakota farmers, David Monson, also a state legislator, and Roger Johnson, the North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner. Their remarks were so compelling that in my remarks, I asked whether there were any DEA representatives in the audience who wished to reply. Nobody responded.
Last summer I shared a podium with Rep. Paul at a large gathering of organic farm and food enthusiasts in New England. It was a debate of sorts. At one point, I challenged the Congressman to apply his libertarian philosophy by introducing legislation to let farmers have the freedom to grow industrial hemp and sell it to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. He immediately said he would. And he has done it.
There are those like former CIA chief, James Woolsey, who support growing hemp to reduce our reliance on imported oil. More broadly, industrial hemp advances the growth of a carbohydrate-based economy instead of a hydrocarbon-based economy.
Thomas Alva Edison, Henry Ford I and the presidents of MIT and Harvard dreamed of this transition during the nineteen-twenties. Unfortunately, the synthetic chemical industry of DuPont, Dow Chemical and others pushed this dream aside. The rest is the history of environmental damage, pollution-disease, geopolitical crises and many other external costs.
Please urge your members of Congress to support HR 3037. Free our farmers and you, the consumers, to move toward a more sustainable economy.