Wednesday, April 06, 2005

California Bill to Legalize Hemp Growing

The Sacramento Union reports on a bill to legalize the growing of hemp. Link.
Hemp has only a trace amount of tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, the drug in marijuana, but hemp can’t be legally grown in the United States without a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration. And the DEA has only allowed an experimental plot in Hawaii, according to Adam Eidinger, a spokesman for Vote Hemp, the lobbying arm of the hemp industry.

So Nutiva contracts with Canadian farmers for its hemp, processes it in Canada and imports the finished products.

“We pay Exxon and Chevron a lot of money for gasoline for truckers,” said Roulac. “We’d rather pay that money to California farmers to grow a sustainable crop.”

Assemblyman Mark Leno has a bill that could make that happen. The San Francisco Democrat’s measure would allow the state Department of Food and Agriculture to issue licenses to grow and process hemp. (...)

Hemp can be used to make a myriad of products, including clothing, cosmetics, food, paper, rope, jewelry, luggage, sports equipment and toys. As food, hemp is high in essential fatty acids, protein, B vitamins and fiber, its supporters say.

American farmers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew hemp for centuries, often under government mandates or with government subsidies. Copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, Leno said.

“The strange irony is that we can presently import the entire hemp plant and manufacturers can produce thousands of different products (using hemp) and then sell them,” he added. “The one component which is missing out on this is the farmer.”

The banning of hemp is a gross overreaction. It violates both common sense and federalism. California is large enough that the hemp grown there can be processed into products and sold within its borders. No interstate commerce need occur.

The most amazing facts in the article are that products containing hemp can be imported as can hemp itself, and processed into products here. It only cannot be grown here. We spend large numbers of taxpayer dollars to subsidize farmers growing too much of crops that would be unprofitable in such quantities in a free market, but we deny farmers the ability to switch to a crop that is not harmful and which would be profitable without taxpayer subsidies.

If the bill passes, it will be interesting following whether the federal government leaves the state alone, or if it sues, or worse prosecutes, to stop the law from taking effect.


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