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Dispelling misconceptions about hemp-based agriculture

Posted on August 1, 2000

In response to:
Cash Crop: Agents burn marijuana crop in Adams County worth $400,000

To The Herald-Whig:
Qunicy, Illinois — A small item appeared in the July 22 Herald Whig so misleading and distorted it really must be challenged. The report concerned a patch of “wild and uncultivated” marijuana in Hancock County consisting of about 600 plants hauled away by the sheriff’s department. Ascribed to Sheriff John Johnson was a statement referring to the value of “the cultivated marijuana” as equal to about $1,000 a plant making the haul potentially worth “$600,000.” So which was it, “wild and uncultivated” or “cultivated?” Sheriff Johnson is quoted as saying under the right growing conditions wild marijuana can have almost the same amount of THC as cultivated marijuana. This last statement must be refuted.

A wild patch of marijuana should be called by it’s proper name, a stand of hemp, left over from when hemp was still an important Illinois crop. As hemp, those 600 plants had no more value then 600 ragweed plants. Legitimate scientific research which refutes the claim that THC levels fluctuate wildly in feral hemp can be found at www.druglibrary.org. Find there a study entitled “Seasonal Fluctuations in Cannabinoid Content of Kansas Marijuana” first published in the journal, “Economic Botany” in 1975. Kansas State University in Manhattan researchers, monitored the seasonal changes in cannabinoid levels in wild stands of Kansas hemp over the course of a growing season.

Cannabinoids are the family of compounds produced by the Cannabis sativa plant. There are several, including CBD, delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC and CBN in various ratios to each other. Only delta-9-THC is psychoactive. The Kansas study states, “researchers generally agree that marijuana falls into two categories: (1.) drug types and (2.) non-drug types. Marijuana high in CBD and low in THC is characteristic of the non-drug type; the drug type is low in CBD, high in THC.” The plants sampled were found to have CBD levels 10-20 times higher than other cannabinoids in all plant parts. Though cannabinoid levels do fluctuate during the growing season, and stress can play a part in those changes, the fluctuation of delta-9-THC was found to be in the range of 0.0001 to 0.06 percent of dry plant matter. This is a truly negligible range. Marijuana must have a percentage of at least 2% to be psychoactive. The highest value stated in any part of the study for THC is 0.49 percent. This is still well below the minimum necessary for a drug effect.

The study concludes, “potential cannabinoid content of marijuana appears to be genetically controlled, but the level of expression may be regulated by environmental factors regulating plant growth and development. Marijuana growing in Kansas is low in potency. Midwestern marijuana descended from varieties cultivated for fiber and cannabinoid level, apparently has remained unchanged by natural selection.”

A reappraisal of hemp’s value as an agricultural crop is taking place in Illinois and worldwide. The international standard for the THC content of hemp varieties is 0.3 percent or less. More and more countries are accepting this standard but the United States government still refuses to. The Canadian government’s list of approved cultivars for the 2000 growing season contains 23 varieties. Both houses of the Illinois Legislature have passed resolutions calling on the federal government to accept the distinction between low and high potency varieties. The Illinois Industrial Hemp Act currently awaits final passage in the Illinois House and would establish a two-year research program at the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University. The Illinois Farm Bureau supports this bill.

Our agriculture must change and researching new crops is one obvious avenue to pursue. In the Farm Bureau booth at the Adams County Fair was a display on hemp created by me which I hope served to open many people’s eyes to the potential of a hemp-based agriculture and dispel the many misconceptions about it.

Ned Behrensmeyer
Payson, Illinois

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