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Beat weed

Posted on December 1, 1998

DEA agents are on the lookout for anyone growing industrial hemp, a crop the Clinton administration fervently believes can contribute to drug addiction. This is pretty unlikely.

“You’d have to smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole to get a buzz, and you’d die from carbon monoxide first,” says Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, which is introducing a line of hemp products.

The DEA could care less. The agency’s war against hemp helps rationalize its budget, allowing the DEA to point to its success in the eradication of industrial hemp.

Farmers in Great Britain and Germany grow hemp, and under free-trade agreements Canadian farmers will shortly start dumping it in the U.S., where it will be used in the manufacture of textiles and as a nutty-tasting food oil.

But U.S. farmers, desperate for a moneymaking crop, will have to sit on the sidelines and watch the Canadians dean up. Recently, hemp enthusiasts have been talking about transforming the North American Industrial Hemp Council into a serious trade association, and approaching former CIA director James Woolsey about representing the group. Woolsey attended a recent hemp conference because of his interest in developing sustainable energy sources (which might include hemp) to make the U.S. less reliant on foreign fuels.

“Industrial hemp can play a highly important role in American agriculture and business” Woolsey said. “It’s not a drug. So it shouldn’t be regulated as one”

The fight to grow hemp has pulled together a group of odd bedfellows, ranging from actor Woody Harrelson, who wears clothes made of hemp, to entrepreneurs like the Body Shop’s Roddick.

Says designer Ralph Lauren, “I’ve always loved the look of natural, rustic fabrics. I especially like the… mix of hemp against silk-it’s very romantic”

Exclaims Calvin Klein: “I love the fabric.”

Copyright © 1998, Village Voice. All rights reserved.