It’s time to bring back hemp as a popular crop
By Steve Clements, Times Record News
Imagine, pecan growers, that a team of scientists discovers a variety of the nut that contains an intoxicating chemical — an otherwise-ordinary pecan that gets you “high.”
The federal government springs into action, determined to save the youth of America from this new menace, and bans all pecans — Papershells, Burketts and Stuarts included — just because they’re close relatives of the “drug” pecan. I know, I know, this is almost science-fiction stuff, pretty laughable.
But that’s exactly what happened to hemp, a versatile, hardy, harmless plant banned because it’s a close cousin of marijuana.
Hemp contains THC, the component of marijuana that produces a smoker’s buzz, but in tiny amounts: The THC content of hemp is usually less than half of 1 percent, compared to 13-15 percent for the marijuana plant.
In other words, you can smoke hemp all day, rash out your lungs and still not get high.
Kinda stupid, this law? I think so.
And there’s a reason I’m ranting about hemp today. A recent increase in newsprint prices put newspapers — ours included — in a headlock. As a result, we’re all watching our bottom lines even closer than usual, and we’re cutting out some of the extra expenses.
It’s only a temporary situation — we hope — and it won’t have much effect on you, the reader. But it wouldn’t be a problem at all if American farmers were producing fields full of hemp.
That image might seem far-fetched now, but it wasn’t always so. Our founding fathers grew hemp; their Declaration of Independence was drawn up on hemp paper. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, was a hemp supporter: He tinkered and fiddled with the plant, developing uses for it and inventing a machine that separated the fibers.
It wasn’t until the 1930s, when the “reefer madness” scare enveloped the nation, that hemp was outlawed. The government even back-pedaled a few years later when World War II created a need for rope on US Navy ships. Apparently, it wasn’t that evil, because lawmakers re-legalized it.
And in a few states, local leaders are shaking off the federal drug-war fog and investigating hemp as an industrial crop.
In Hawaii, a hair-care company is growing plots of the plant for use in its product and Vermont, Minnesota and North Dakota farmers are planting test stands.
In Kentucky, where hemp was first planted in 1775 and served as the state’s biggest cash crop until it was outlawed in 1937, farmers are suing for the right to resume hemp production.
Meanwhile, everybody else in the world came to their senses long ago. Germany, Great Britain, China, Spain, France, Russia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Romania — heck, even Canada — all allow their farmers to grow hemp.
The farmers, in turn, sell their crops for use in clothes, ropes, paper, shoes and other merchandise. Walk into any “nature” store and you’ll find hemp products for sale.
Hemp even has uses in food products. That’s right, you vegetable-itarians, they can make cheese and milk from hemp that you, too, can eat, because it contains no animal parts.
If you read our paper regularly, you know our farmers are suffering. Crop prices are in the crapper, while the cost of seed and equipment is rising. To make things worse, we’re in the midst of a killing drought.
Guess what, guys? Hemp is a hardy plant, able to survive without much water because its roots burrow deep into the ground.
Its nutrients replenish the earth — important in a region such as North Texas, where years of cotton crops weakened the soil.
Personally, I can’t see myself wearing a hemp shirt or shoes or eating hemp cheese. But if other people want to spend their money on it, why shouldn’t our farmers and merchants put it in their pockets, instead of sending it all to the commies in China?
That’s right — because the prospect of kids in high school getting a headache from stolen hemp plants gives lawmakers queasy stomachs.
Maybe a little warm hemp milk might cure that.
Copyright © 2000, The EW Scripps Co. All rights reserved.