Pubdate: Wed, 11 Mar 2009
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2009 Metro Times, Inc
Author: Larry Gabriel
Note: Author Is a Writer, Musician and Former Editor of Metro Times.
Cited: Michigan NORML
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Popular)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Here's a thought to make you wonder what kind of radical nut job 
Larry Gabriel is: What about legalizing marijuana in Michigan and 
making hemp a part of our agricultural and industrial economy?

I'm not talking about creeping up on the idea in increments. I'm 
talking full-blown twisting up a doobie and publicly puffing your day 
away without recrimination. Buying and selling marijuana for 
recreational purposes is already a huge part of our underground 
economy, or black market if you please.

"The state is losing billions of dollars due to marijuana being 
illegal," says the Rev. Steven Thompson, president of the Michigan 
chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana 
Laws. "It would be a big boost to our economy. Federal statistics 
about two years back showed that the cannabis plant is the No. 1 cash 
crop here in the state of Michigan and it's illegally grown."

When something illegal is your No. 1 cash crop, and you are in an 
economic freefall, it seems to me the crop needs to get some official 
attention from the state. That's what's going on out West. California 
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has proposed legislation to legalize 
marijuana in California. His proposal acknowledges the fact that, 
although illegal, marijuana is California's biggest cash crop. We're 
talking about $14 billion a year. And that doesn't even take into 
account what's imported from outside of the United States.

Let's get out front here in Michigan. We don't want to come late to 
the party after half the nation has legalized the weed when there is 
nothing but the equivalent of stems and seeds left in the marijuana bonanza.

There are so many ways marijuana and its hempen counterpart can 
bolster a faltering economy. For starters, it can be grown here, 
which would bolster our agriculture industry. It can be regulated and 
taxed, and the money paid for it will ripple through the economy. 
We'll save money in the criminal justice system, from initial arrests 
and court costs to prison and parole costs.

And hemp has so many uses it could almost be considered a wonder 
plant. The wide-open fields found all about the city have already 
spawned a growing urban farming movement. If hemp were added to the 
mix, it could spawn all kinds of economic activity, from textiles to car parts.

Canada legalized hemp-growing in 1998, and 60 percent of what 
Canadian farmers grow is imported to the United States - not to 
mention the illegal cannabis grown there that comes here. We could 
grow it ourselves.

There could be a hemp-based textile industry here. Clothing of all 
kinds is made from hemp. There are products such as jewelry, shoes, 
paper, rope and, from the seeds, body and cooking oils. As we develop 
a cellulose-based ethanol industry, hemp has more cellulose content 
than most plants - and it grows really fast

There are even 100 percent biodegradable plastics made from hemp. If 
you play Frisbee golf you may have been tossing the hemp around. 
Ford, GM, Chrysler, Saturn, BMW, Honda and Mercedes use hemp 
composite door panels, trunks, head liners and other parts in their 
vehicles. An Australian company uses a hemp plastic resin to make 
musical instruments and furniture. It's not new; Henry Ford long ago 
demonstrated that car doors and fenders made with hemp and sisal 
cellulose plastic were strong, dependable car parts.

Hemp is even used in brewing one of our favorite beverages. The 
Frederick Brewing Company in Maryland produces Hempen Ale, brown ale 
made with hemp seeds that, according to the label, give it a "creamy 
head" and "mellow herbal flavors and aromas." Hmmm ... maybe the 
Stroh Brewery could do something with that.

Talk about a cash crop. It's hard to argue against hemp even if you 
have problems with people deriving pleasure from smoking marijuana. 
The grade of cannabis that is grown for hemp production is pretty 
useless for the purpose for getting high. The low level of THC (the 
psychoactive ingredient that induces the high) in the plant makes 
that nearly impossible. But its nonrecreational possibilities seem 
nearly endless.

Maybe it's just a pipe dream, but I can see the green hemp fields of 
Detroit waving in the breeze, the sun shining down as people work the 
fields. I see textile manufacturing. I see oils squeezed from the 
seeds. I see industrial plastics. All of it comes from a ubiquitous 
weed that practically grows itself.

"It can be grown anywhere," says Thompson. "It should be grown in Michigan."

We once imagined a shiny, space age future with astronomically tall 
buildings, flying cars, domestic robots and vacations to the moon. We 
could change our thinking and dream of a smaller, sustainable city 
with agriculture and small industries fueling a culture of community 
and closeness.

Since we're already growing it here, we may as well get more out of 
it than an illegal buzz.

Michigan's medical marijuana law has already produced a healthy 
result, although no distribution system has been created. In Dec. 
2007, Keith Campbell, of Unionville in Tuscola County, was charged 
with possession, manufacturing and possession of marijuana with 
intent to deliver and, because he had a gun, two felony firearms 
counts. Campbell's doctor had recommended he try marijuana for a 
medical condition. After the new law went into effect on Dec. 4, 
Campbell's attorney, Matthew Able, filed a motion to dismiss the 
charges and the judge did so.

I'm sure there will be much legal wrangling over how the law is 
applied, and you may not want to go through the headache, but if you 
have a doctor's recommendation, it's legal to grow a bit of the herb 
for your personal use. Just in case you need his help, Abel's office 
is in downtown Detroit above the Anchor Bar.

It's a shame that the uproar over the future of Cobo Center has 
degraded into an "us vs. them" argument. I thought we had grown up 
past that. Most of the bravado, posturing and rhetoric coming from 
Detroit City Council members have little to do with details of the 
deal arranged by Mayor Ken Cockrel. Again we have the specter of a 
fight between council and the mayor, division between Detroit and 
surrounding areas, and race as an ordering principle of how and why 
we do things. Barbara-Rose Collins' rambling diatribe last Thursday, 
capped off by a rendering of the old hymn "Onward Christian 
Soldiers," was embarrassing.

I've never found that particular song, with its metaphors of military 
might and war, to be particularly uplifting. And I have no idea what 
it has to do with the Cobo situation.

It does show that blacker-than-thou is still a strong part of Detroit 
politics. I suspect that, in addition to any legitimate problems with 
the deal, there are political influences stemming from the upcoming 
mayoral races stirring the pot - and that goes from the mayor's 
office, through council, and on down to Freeman Hendrix, who came in 
third and out of the race in the Feb. 24 primary. Hendrix, who has 
been very vocally opposing the deal, may well have his hat in the 
ring for the August primary.

Whatever it is, our elected officials and others need to keep their 
arguments focused on the issues and not the egos. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake