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The Illinois Industrial Hemp Act vs. the Illinois Drug Education Alliance

Posted on April 15, 2000

Partially as a result of a misinformation campaign mounted by the Illinois Drug Education Alliance (IDEA) the Illinois Industrial Hemp Act (Senate Bill 1397, House Bill 3559) has currently stalled in the House of Representatives. After sailing through the Illinois Senate Ag Committee 6 to 0, the full Senate 49 to 9 and the House Ag Committee 11 to 4 the bill has been removed from the House agenda until after the November elections. On April 4, 2000, a meeting took place between supporters of the Industrial Hemp Act including Representatives Ron Lawfer and William Black, Senator Evelyn Bowles, Dr. Don Briskin, the plant physiologist from the University of Illinois who would oversee the research program and Gary Knecht, Ross Prough and Steve Koeller, farmers from the Omni Ventures group and representatives of the Illinois Drug Education Alliance (IDEA) in opposition. The meeting brought the nascent hemp movement in Illinois face to face with the reality of drug war hysteria and propaganda for which facts and well reasoned arguments are nothing but inconvenient irritations. The attempt to find common ground failed.

In light of what has happened as a result of IDEA’s distributing High Times magazine to all the Representatives and spooking enough of them into not supporting HB 3559 at this time, I think it is helpful to ponder the nature of propaganda. Around the top of the Jefferson Memorial are inscribed the following words, “I have sworn upon the alter of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”. High on the list of subtle mental tyrannies to be ever on guard against is propaganda in all its forms. In propaganda, the simple lie repeated ad infinitum is used to conquer the complex truth. Propaganda is contemptuous of truth and contemptuous of anyone who demands rigorous standards, either that words have meaning or facts be supported. Sophistry and the corruption of language, mindless repetition of catch words and phrases, stereotyping and scapegoating are it’s hallmarks. It’s aim is the furtherance of an intolerant agenda and it’s goal is the absolute assertion of Power over Truth. The critical, objective person should beware of it’s seductive power, be able to recognize and resist it’s symptoms even in oneself and fiercely defend the sanctity of one’s own mind.

My own Representative gave me his carefully tabbed and annotated copy of High Times along with the March 21st cover letter accompanying the magazine from IDEA and I’d like to demonstrate how distorted and misleading are the ‘points’ IDEA purports to establish. In reviewing the items listed in IDEA’s High Times cover letter, one is most struck by its stunning intellectual dishonesty. The first item listed as “pages to note” is the following statement, “Hashish of extraordinary potency (68%) can be made from low level THC plants. (Page 52)”. Going to page 52 (High Times, April 2000 edition) and an article entitled, “Trichome Technologies Guide to Making Hash”, we find highlighted by IDEA, “Surprisingly, hashish of extraordinary potency can be made from lowly leaf as well. Hashish made at Trichome Technologies from water extracted leaf tested at 68% THC”. Notice that IDEA can’t even get the quote right! The IDEA letter says “low level THC plants” whereas the actual passage from the article says “lowly leaf”. There’s a world of difference here and this distortion is intellectually indefensible. From this misread kernel, IDEA implies that hashish can be made from 0.3% THC or less industrial hemp leaves.

Reading the article clearly reveals that the “lowly leaf” being referred to are the less potent bottom leaves from otherwise high potency marijuana plants. The second paragraph of the article states, “The potency of hashish depends on purity and, of course, the potency of the starting material. As with all growing and hashish-making, you won’t get superior product from inferior starting material. Bad marijuana makes bad hashish. Given that plants are a potent variety, they still must be harvested at peak potency…etc.” On page 54, the article observes, “the water-extraction method is the answer to the grower’s question, ‘what do I do with all that leaf and trimmings?’”. The word “hemp” never appears in the article. IDEA’s extraction from this article of two sentences divorced completely from their context and using them to imply that hashish can be made from industrial hemp is just as dishonest as it can be.

The next item to note reads, “Richard Rose ‘has watched the hemp industry take its infant steps, but sees some warning signs posted ahead. The biggest danger? Pretending any longer that pot and hemp are different (IDEA’s bold type) ” (Page 80). The article in question is a profile and interview with a 44 year old California entrepreneur named Richard Rose who is the founder of a successful natural foods company called the Rella Good Cheese Company which markets cheese alternatives and has invested over a half million dollars in hemp seed foods. This is a very strange article for IDEA to choose to bolster its claim that “there is no real market for hemp” or that there is no real difference between hemp and marijuana. Mr. Rose is obviously a very intelligent businessman and an examplar of good, honest capitalism at work. In the eyes of IDEA what is this man’s crime? To believe in something — to be an “activist” — and, in our free enterprise system, make a multi-million dollar company out of it?

Had the IDEA representatives bothered to read this article they could have learned a lot from Mr. Rose about the difference between hemp and marijuana. Quoting Mr. Rose,”You don’t make good clothes out of Afghani bud and you don’t get good pot out of hemp. There is a natural division defined by use, agronomy and genetics, and we were trying to get people to recognize the difference. We needed to talk about the differences in these two plants — the distinct varieties, applications, growing methods and growing regions.” The following passage provides the context for the quote from Mr. Rose bold typed in the IDEA letter, “pretending any longer that pot and hemp are different” and clearly Mr. Rose means here, ‘in the eyes of the law’.

“The Kenex hempseed seizure in August, where legal hemp products were seized by Customs using marijuana laws, that woke me up to the fact that if the Feds are going to use marijuana laws to stop the hemp industry, then the hemp industry can no longer bury its head when it comes to marijuana laws. We can’t act like this is a flax plant or a sunflower plant, that we’re not subject to those marijuana laws. The government has taken Jack Herer’s message to heart: they’re both the same. High-THC and low-THC are the same. Ask any Fed. That’s what they’ll tell you. Hemp is marijuana.”

“Hence, those marijuana laws were used against industrial hemp when they seized that load from Kenex (a major hempseed producer in Ontario). That’s when I realized here we are in our little, altruistic vacuum playing like they’re separate, while the Feds completely ignore the issue and use marijuana laws to hassle legitimate industrial-hemp companies, products and imports.”

“If the Feds are going to arrest, stop our imports and make life miserable for industrial hemp, we have to accept the reality as it exists. There is nothing we can do but accept it and work on that basis. Which means we have to change the marijuana laws if we’re ever going to stop being hassled for hemp.”

The next item in IDEA’s letter is this, “’420’ has become a widely recognized code for smoking marijuana. It refers to 4:20pm and April 20th (4/20). (Page 88).” One really has to wonder what the point is here? When the Columbine High School shootings took place on April 20, 1999 it was immediately reported by the media that there must be a connection to the ‘420’ slang current among young marijuana users. However, subsequent investigations showed that marijuana never was — in any way, shape or form-connected with the Columbine tragedy. The media dropped the theory and it wasn’t mentioned again. However, in the age old trick of deceivers and propagandists known as the “bait and switch”, IDEA first baits the unsuspecting with veiled references to a horrendous crime and then switchs in a reference to marijuana to try and effect guilt by association. This is the technique which ever since 1937 has so polluted and poisoned the discourse in this country about everything having to do with Cannabis sativa L.

Other misprepresentations in IDEA’s letter include these: no market for hemp, Canadian farmers “gutted” the market with 35,000 acres, the Consolidated Growers & Processors bankruptcy, THC “shown” in Health Canada report to present health risks in foodstuffs, THC not approved by FDA and hemp and marijuana cannot be distinguished by appearance.

The market for hemp products worldwide has gone from about $5 million in 1993 to the neighborhood of $600 million this year with about $50 million of that in hemp food products (Hemptech News Service). The CG&P bankruptcy was a setback for Manitoba farmers but they are regrouping and forming a new cooperative and are still enthusiastic about hemp production. IDEA’s representatives have obviously never spent much time in the business world or they would know it is full of people who talk big but can’t deliver. As an industry in its infancy the hemp industry is having to establish markets, processing facilities and perfect production methods all at the same time. Geoff Kime of Hempline, Inc., at the Omni-Ventures meeting in Jerseyville, Ill. on Feb. 16, 2000, reported the problems some Canadian producers had been having in marketing their hemp fiber had more to do with it being improperly retted and moldy rather then there not being a market for it. As for appearance, the diametrically opposed methods of cultivating hemp and marijuana either selects for stalk length or leaf production. However, high grade marijuana frequently comes from Cannabis indica strains. Indica varieties do not grow as tall, are bushier and have much wider leaves.

In late July 1999, the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported it had received preliminary results of a study commissioned by Health Canada showing THC in food presented health risks. When the Globe and Mail reported it, the study had not been published or peer reviewed by other scientists. Nor was the study based on the testing of actual food products but was merely a survey of literature related to laboratory animal tests which probably implies massive doses of THC. In the many months since nothing more has been said about this “study” and Health Canada has issued no official warnings concerning minute THC traces in foods.

In asserting that THC has not been approved by the FDA, IDEA is dead wrong! It is called Marinol and it is the THC based drug first released in 1985 as a Schedule 2 drug for the treatment of anorexia and weight loss associated with AIDS and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. However, on July 2, 1999 the DEA reclassified it into Schedule 3 which puts it on a par with codeine, easily available upon prescription. General Barry McCaffrey in announcing the rescheduling said it was the “safe and proper way” to make a form of marijuana available to the public. “This action will make Marinol, which is proven to be safe and effective for medical use, more widely available,” he said. This is the same man who recently called the medicinal use of marijuana, “a crock”.

What an extraordinary double standard this is. THC in marijuana remains the object of vicious propaganda and scare tactics ascribing to it all manner of hidden dangers, addictive properties and nefarious side effects — yet the common sense reality check indicates no one has ever died from it and the theoretical lethal dose is somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 to 1 (aspirin is 20 to 1) — but in pharmaceutical pill form it is “safe and effective”. This kind of systemic hypocrisy cannot help but have a deeply corrosive effect on a society such as ours. Woe to anyone, teenagers especially, for whom the Orwellian trick of double-thinking the government’s contradictions about Cannabis no longer works for then one confronts the harsh reality of how deeply engrained is the 63 year old web of deception which this government has woven about marijuana and how many basic freedoms have now been sacrificed to it. Anyone whose fealty is to Honesty, first and foremost, is suddenly thrust from the ‘mainstream’ and an outsider looking in. My God, one could become an “activist”!

The Illinois Industrial Hemp Act is too important a piece of legislation to fall victim to the tactics of propaganda and distortion outlined here. The simple lie must not be allowed to conquer the complex truth. Too much is at stake for Illinois farmers. It is obvious a group like IDEA cares little for facts or rigorous intellectual standards. But then their purpose is not the advancement of knowledge. It is the furtherance of an intolerant agenda. Their repeated use of the stereotyping and scapegoating phrase “pro-drug culture” demonstrates this beyond doubt and reveals that their opposition to hemp has very little to do with the merits of hemp as a viable alternative crop for Illinois farmers and everything to do with a cultural war they believe they are waging. But as the above analysis shows “pro-drug culture” could just as well be interpreted as “pro-truth culture” or “pro-honesty culture”, at least as far as hemp is concerned. Or how about, just average Americans who are sick and tired of being lied to.

Neither the mainstream media or the politicians have fully awakened to how dramatically the Internet has leveled the playing field as far as information control is concerned. In the past, information control has always been tantamount to political control but the horse has left the barn now. Suddenly it is very easy to check original sources, review published research and know the news the mainstream media conveniently chooses not to report. Politicians are put in the increasingly difficult position of having to decide whether their continued stonewalling of the public’s interest for fear of offending one special interest or another will finally start to result in a backlash from a far more educated and truly informed public able to network like never before.

It is incumbent on those of us who are farmers and deeply concerned about the direction agriculture is taking but also excited about the possibilities of a field-raised industrial fiber to do all we can, before the Industrial Hemp Act comes back up in the House of Representatives next Fall, to raise the level of awareness about hemp in the general public and provide a sense of cover to the representatives too timid to vote for HB 3559. This means prodding the Farm Bureau for more active support and making sure our local newspapers and TV stations give it some balanced coverage. As evidenced by IDEA’s letter our task should not be that hard given the quality of what we’re up against. Those of us who attended the House Agriculture Committee meeting on March 24th witnessed the spectacle of the DEA’s hired guns hanging themselves in their own lies and distortions before a panel of rational human beings capable of seeing propaganda for what it is. This experience just needs to be translated to the full House. In the meantime the venue will shift to other states and developments. Both houses of Maryland’s legislature just passed their hemp bill. By next Fall the results of Hawaii’s first experimental crop will be coming in and we will know if Illinois ever got rain.

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