Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2006
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: Letters from newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Bookmark: (Hemp)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both farmed it. The
U.S. Navy sailed with it. And today it is used in hundreds of
products, from energy bars to auto parts.

Hemp is an agricultural product with an enormous potential, especially
in North Carolina, where the idea of legalizing it has been floated
several times. But hemp is a cousin of marijuana, and no amount of
reasoning about the differences in the two has overcome political
fears of being associated with dope. The federal government will hear
nothing of it, either.

California and seven other states are on the brink of forcing a
showdown on the federal government's refusal to sanction hemp
agriculture. The New York Times reports that Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger must decide whether he will allow a recently passed
hemp bill to become law. He could veto it, sign it, or allow it to
become law without his signature.

His decision won't be politically easy. The Office of National Drug
Control Policy and California narcotics officers are both opposed. The
federal government has been adamant about anything having anything to
do with marijuana, even medical marijuana.

The main fear expressed in news articles on the topic is that hemp
cultivation would mask marijuana farms. A huge crop of hemp planted
alongside marijuana would make it difficult for police to find the

That's why North Dakota officials, who want to allow hemp farming, say
they are ready to enact tough regulations for hemp growers. They'd
register any such farms, open them to inspection, and require their
owners to be fingerprinted by authorities.

Back in California, those who support the bill passed by the
California legislature contend that a federal appellate court decision
backs their position that the federal government has no authority to
block hemp cultivation.

More than 30 countries allow the cultivation of hemp. The United
States already imports a great deal of that hemp to use in the
manufacture of a wide range of products. It appears to make no sense
to block hemp production just because it is related to marijuana,
especially since it contains only a tiny amount of the chemical that
brings about a marijuana high.

There's no certainty that legalized hemp cultivation would be a big
hit in North Carolina, or in any of the other states. China controls
about 40 percent of the world's production already. But there are big
parts of this state that could use a crop that produces a good income,
and if the climate and soil here are good for that crop, then farmers
should be able to give it a try.

There are ways around the problems associated with hemp's similarities
to marijuana. The federal government just has to decide that it wants
to pursue those remedies.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin