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Nader challenges Gore/Bush on US industrial hemp policy

Posted on September 11, 2000

Washington, DC — Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader today challenged Al Gore and George W. Bush to explain their positions on industrial hemp and the opposition of the U.S. government to an agricultural crop that would benefit farmers and manufacturers while at the same time providing many environmental benefits.

“Farmers in communities throughout the U.S. would benefit from the ability to grow industrial hemp, a viable crop with some of the longest and strongest natural fibers in the plant kingdom and with thousands of potential uses,” Nader said in a Sept. 9 letter to Gore and Bush.

Nader challenged Gore and Bush to explain to the American voters why it is illegal for farmers in the U.S. to grow a crop that has the potential to help address the global depletion of forest resources, the dependency on foreign oil, the harmful effects of petrochemicals, the excessive use of pesticides for fiber crops, and the economic depression of farming communities.

“Due to bureaucratic red tape and over zealousness on the part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, industrial hemp cannot be commercially grown in the United States. The DEA and other federal agencies are greatly out of touch with the American public in enforcing their medieval rules regarding industrial hemp,” Nader said.

Nader explained to Gore and Bush that industrial hemp is not a drug, and contains very little of the psychoactive component THC that is found in marijuana. Cumulative studies in Europe and Canada have shown that industrial hemp is not psychoactive. Therefore, smoking it will only give you a headache, not a high.

Industrial hemp produces extremely versatile fiber and oil that can be used in various applications including clothing, fuel, paper, cosmetics, animal bedding, automobile parts, food, rope, textiles, carpeting, etc.

In the past three years, 19 states have introduced pro-industrial hemp resolutions.


Sept. 11, 2000

Honorable Albert Gore
Vice President
The White House
Washington, D. C.

Governor George Bush
Governor’s Mansion
Austin, Texas

Dear Vice President Gore and Governor Bush:

On Aug. 24 in the early morning, 25 armed agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshals Service, and Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Task Force uprooted two test plots of industrial hemp planted on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, destroying the crop that was legally planted under the sovereignty of the Oglala Sioux tribe. The Oglala Sioux people had high hopes for this crop, believing it would allow them to achieve more economic self-sufficiency while also providing useful supplies such as building materials, as tribal leader Joe American Horse explained at a recent press conference in Washington D.C.

Farmers in communities throughout the U.S. would benefit from the ability to grow industrial hemp, a viable crop with some of the longest and strongest natural fibers in the plant kingdom and with thousands of potential uses. In March of 1998 a coalition of individuals and organizations — including private businesses and non-profit organizations — submitted a petition to both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture requesting that the agencies initiate rulemaking proceedings that would lead to the enactment of regulations permitting the domestic production of industrial hemp. Despite the prominence of many of the signers and a clearly and rationally argued case that marijuana and industrial hemp are different, there has been no response from either the DEA or the USDA to date. Sitting on this petition is an arbitrary and capricious display of administrative behavior.

In the past three years 19 states have introduced pro-industrial hemp resolutions. Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Tennessee introduced pro-industrial hemp legislation. And, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia have passed industrial hemp legislation and resolutions. But Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey has lobbied against any moves by the states to take legislative action to address industrial hemp.

I challenge you to reveal to the American voters your position on industrial hemp, and explain to them why it is illegal for farmers in the U.S. to grow a crop that has the potential to help address the global depletion of forest resources, the dependency on foreign oil, the harmful effects of petrochemicals, the excessive use of pesticides for fiber crops, and the economic depression of farming communities.

I am sure you are aware that industrial hemp is not a drug, and contains very little of the psychoactive component THC that is found in marijuana. Cumulative studies in Europe and Canada have shown that industrial hemp is not psychoactive. Therefore, smoking it will only give you a headache, not a high.

Industrial hemp is a viable crop with some of the longest and strongest natural fibers in the plant kingdom and with thousands of potential uses. The crop, grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, produces an extremely versatile fiber and oil that can be used in various applications including clothing, fuel, paper, cosmetics, animal bedding, automobile parts, food, rope, textiles, carpeting, etc.

Rather than responding to the call for industrial hemp from farmers, manufacturers and 19 states, Bill Clinton’s Drug Enforcement Administration wants to extend its bureaucratic control over products containing industrial hemp that has been legally imported from other countries. I was recently informed by Hawaii State Representative Cynthia Thielen that the DEA is preparing to propose new rules regulating industrial hemp that would, among other changes, declare any product containing any amount of THC to be a Schedule I Controlled Substance — the most restrictive category for controlled substances — with the exception of industrial hemp products not used or intended for human consumption, such as paper, clothing and rope.

These actions by the United States government are ensuring that while Canadian and other farmers prosper from industrial hemp, American farmers are unlikely to see its benefits anytime soon.

While American farmers are forbidden from commercially growing this crop, American manufacturers are allowed to import industrial hemp from China and other nations and manufacture hemp products. In the current farm crisis, farmers need alternative crops and hemp will likely be more profitable than other commodity crops. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, in 1999 hemp yields grossed $308 to $410 per acre. These figures compare favorably to the $103-$137 gross made on canola and wheat crops per acre. Moreover, the market for industrial hemp has been greatly underestimated by the U.S. government. For instance, the use of natural fibers in bio-composites (such as automobile parts) is predicted to grow by 15-20 percent annually. And hemp is expected to be an important commodity for this market due to its favorable strength to weight ratio.

In addition to being a potentially economically viable crop, industrial hemp can also benefit the environment. It can replace wood fiber in most applications, such as building products and paper, aiding forest conservation efforts. It can minimize toxics in the environment, because when used in pulp for paper, its natural brightness avoids chlorine bleaching that produces dioxin, a powerful environmental toxin. It is also an excellent crop that needs few, if any, pesticides and herbicides, and used in rotation it chokes out weeds. Therefore, crops grown on the same field after hemp have shown increased yields. Industrial hemp also has a potential to be one of the bio-based fuels that could replace petroleum as a fuel source, thereby benefiting both national security and the environment. This benefit has attracted the support of ex-CIA director James Woolsey, who wants industrial hemp to be grown in the U.S.. Furthermore, its use in automobile bio-composites decreases energy consumption and these new components are more easily recycled than current auto parts, which are made of fiberglass.

As a result of its utility and its many benefits, industrial hemp has been experiencing a renaissance and is being grown by most industrialized countries throughout the world, with the exception of the United States. Countries such as Canada, England, Germany and France recognize its value and grow the crop, leaving the United States at a competitive disadvantage.

I urge each of you to speak openly on this subject and to let the media, as well as working families, know where you stand.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

Copyright © 2000, Nader 2000 General Committee. All rights reserved.